CWA Historical Dagger
Winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, Dark Fire is the second thrilling historical crime novel in the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom.
It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the sixteenth 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 horribly 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 . . .
Continue this gripping historical series with Sovereign, Revelation, Heartstone, Lamentation and Tombland.
In the media
Historical crime fiction is sometimes little more than a modern adventure in fancy dress. Not so the novels of C. J. Sansom, whose magnificent books set in the reign of Henry VIII bring to life the sounds and smells of Tudor England . . . Dark Fire is a creation of real brilliance.
Sansom gives us a broad view of politics – Tudor housing to rival Rachman, Dickensian prisons, a sewage-glutted Thames, beggars in gutters, conspiracies at court and a political system predicated on birth not merit, intrigue not intelligence . . . like many before him, he offers an enjoyable history; but this is also an ethically informed one . . . a strong and intelligent novel.
Spellbinding . . . Sansom’s vivid portrayal of squalid, stinking, bustling London; the city’s wealth and poverty; the brutality and righteousness of religious persecution; and the complexities of English law make this a suspenseful, colourful and compelling tale.
One of the author’s greatest gifts is the immediacy of his descriptions . . . But it is Shardlake himself who steals the show. His honesty and humility shine out in a dark world where murder and mayhem are the order of the day.