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Dark Fire: A Matthew Shardlake Novel | [C. J. Sansom]

Dark Fire: A Matthew Shardlake Novel

It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the 16th century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king's chief minister - and a new assignment.
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Publisher's Summary

It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the 16th century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king's chief minister - and a new assignment.

The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered. The formula has disappeared.

Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client's innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems.

© C. J. Sansom; (P) Macmillan Publishers Ltd

What the Critics Say

"Having hugely enjoyed Anton Lesser's reading of Sovereign, the third of C.J. Sansom's Tudor mystery series starring the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, I backtracked to hear the first two in the series, Dissolution and Dark Fire.. . As a trio, they reveal just how skilled Sansom is in creating convincing characters in a fully imagined historical world, and it is no surprise that a television series featuring Shardlake is planned. I'm not sure if Anton Lesser will star in it, but after hearing him narrate all three books, I can't imagine anyone better suited to the role... Following the text in a paperback, I let my eyes chase what my ears were hearing and was impressed at how little had to be lost." Christina Hardyment (The Times Books)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (125 )
5 star
 (76)
4 star
 (37)
3 star
 (10)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
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Overall
4.5 (35 )
5 star
 (24)
4 star
 (8)
3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.7 (34 )
5 star
 (26)
4 star
 (6)
3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Dave ManchesterUnited Kingdom 03/01/2009
    Dave ManchesterUnited Kingdom 03/01/2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    11
    2
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    Overall
    "Excellently complex historical thriller"

    This is the second of (currently) four Matthew Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom - and even better than the first (Dissolution) which I listened to via Audible previously.
    Whilst Sansom's novels give something of a nod in the direction of Ellis Peters "Cadfael" books, this is altogether more sophisticated work, both in terms of its historical detail and the complexity of its plot, and has a somewhat darker, more adult feel.
    I enjoyed Dissolution a lot, but this novel had me completely absorbed and its twists and turns kept me engrossed until the very end. Others have already complimented Anton Lesser (who also narrates the "Falco" series by Lindsey Davis) for his work, but he surpasses himself here, with such vivid characterisation of Shardlake and others that for most of the time you entirely forget that there isn't in fact a supporting cast! An excellent listen, and well worth every one of its five stars.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Hurley Cambridge, UK 30/11/2012
    Andy Hurley Cambridge, UK 30/11/2012 Member Since 2011

    I enjoy most genres of fiction but expecially crime fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    98
    8
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    0
    2
    Overall
    "Heavily abridged"

    I love the Shardlake series, have read them all in print and I would say that Dark Fire is my favourite but unfortunately the heavy abridging of this version makes the story uneven and a bit hard to follow. I was pretty deeply disappointed but Anton Lesser makes an excellent reading of what text he was left.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S United Kingdom 12/03/2014
    S United Kingdom 12/03/2014 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    6
    6
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    "Wonderful!"

    C J Sansom/Matthew Shardlake and Anton Lesser are my dream team add an unusual and fascinating plot to the excellent dependable characters and there is nothing else to wish for. Recommended!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dermot Ashbourne, United Kingdom 18/12/2013
    Dermot Ashbourne, United Kingdom 18/12/2013 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "History and drama hand in hand"
    Where does Dark Fire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I've purchased hundreds of tales like this over the years, this is now in my top ten. Well written and Mr Lesser at his best. (He's a national treasure)


    What about Anton Lesser’s performance did you like?

    Great performace again, I could listen to him all day. I felt I was there!


    Any additional comments?

    I am looking forward to my next purchase.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Belfast, United Kingdom 27/05/2013
    Karen Belfast, United Kingdom 27/05/2013 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    13
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    5
    1
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    Story
    "Really enjoyable"

    Well worth the listen - I feel at a bit of a loose end now that I have listened to all Anton Lesser's readings of the Shardlake novels - it has been a lot of fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ThePuss Marlow, United Kingdom 11/04/2013
    ThePuss Marlow, United Kingdom 11/04/2013 Member Since 2007

    I listen to audio books, and occasionally write the odd review. I don't eat babies or like Marmite.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    98
    13
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    "Great descriptive writing, a thoroughly good plot"

    CJ Sansom's Shardlake series are excellent books. Its advantageous to read them in order, but not absolutely necessary, as they can more-or-less stand on their own.



    Sansom's descriptions and details of the period seem to me to be so good that in some scenes you can also "smell" the places. I'm no expert on this period of history, but I would think that his research is highly accurate. I like Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall", but I really enjoy the Shardlake series!



    In "Dark Fire" we find Shardlake believing himself to be out of favour with his estwhile patrons (after the fall out from the 1st book in the series), but is given the task of finding out the truth behind the apparent rediscovery of "Greek Fire" - a Byzantine Weapon of Mass Destruction - and whether or not Thomas Cornwell should be recommending it to the King as a potential addition to his armoury.



    We follow Shardlake, a "crook-back lawyer", across London, to the hospitals and ex-monasteries, and through the inns of court in his journey to try and uncover the truth behind this fearful weapon and the murders that are following in its wake in order to keep it a secret... or to benefit from its sale to the interested parties.



    Shardlake is joined, for the first time in the series, by Jack Barak, more than a general dogsbody, and - as a younger and healthier man - able to do things that wouldn't have been open to the author if he had just stayed with Shardlake on his own.



    The book covers and the initial chapters might seem a bit forboding, and perhaps a bit like a school history lesson, but there is a cracking good plot in all the books in the series, and good characterisation, and excellent descriptive narrative and attention to detail.



    Give them a go!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mark BRADFORD, United Kingdom 03/11/2012
    mark BRADFORD, United Kingdom 03/11/2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "A quality version of the original book"

    Dark Fire being the second in the "Mathew Shardlake" series, is unlike some audiobooks in that is doesn't spoil or let down the feeling and style of the written book. It does however manage to paint for the listener an authentic taste of life in Tudor England, including the rich palette of smells, the people, the food, in fact the whole experience. The author has clearly spent as much time on the historic research as the complex and violent plot that envelops the hunchback lawyer, in his attempt to help a young girl escape the prospect of execution in a most dreadful fashion: a board placed on her and piled with stones until her back breaks and in time suffocation.. 10/10

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Merewyn telford, United Kingdom 24/11/2011
    Merewyn telford, United Kingdom 24/11/2011 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    1
    Overall
    "Again excellent stuff a little predicatable"

    I thought that this was a joy of a book to read, however, it is not quite as good as Dissolution or Revelation both of which were exceptionally fine! That is why I have said 4 rather than 5 to distinguish the truely amazing from the simply excellent! Loving Shardlake!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Auckland, New Zealand 05/12/2010
    Steven Auckland, New Zealand 05/12/2010 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
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    36
    30
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    "Strength to strength"

    Yet another small masterpiece. Matthew Shardlake gains more depth in this story and the political intrigue in Henry VIII's court reaches new intensity. A worthy successor to 'Dissolution' - the first book in the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mrs Jill Williams 03/05/2010 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    54
    5
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    0
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    Overall
    "Dark Fire"

    Great for listening to in the car whilst on a long journey!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Lesley
    West Kempsey, Australia
    18/03/10
    Overall
    "Good Plot & Interesting Historical Background"

    A good mystery plot with a very believable detective in Matthew Shardlake, a flawed, yet clever lawyer, who tries to avoid conflict with powerful men such as the Duke of Norfolk and Thomas Cromwell. The action and the intentions of the characters are believably those of people from 1540.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the historical element of this novel. The dialogue doesn't jar as happens in some efforts at historical writing.
    The narration is smooth and rich.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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