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Paperback Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake 2) Book

ISBN: 0330450786

ISBN13: 9780330450782

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake 2)

(Book #2 in the Matthew Shardlake Series)

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good


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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. In this sequel to Dissolution, it is now 1540, and Shardlake has returned to practicing law in London. When he is called on to help a friend's niece, charged with killing her cousin, he has no idea it...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"The King found her so different from her picture... that... he swore that they had brought him a Fl

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THOMAS CROMWELL'S ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Thomas Cromwell came from humble beginnings son of a blacksmith/brewer, born in Putney, London, in 1485. As a young man he lived in Europe and served in the French Army in Italy, on his return to England he worked as a Lawyer which led him into the service of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (King Henry VIII's Chief advisor). By 1523 Cromwell was elected to the House of Commons and two years later became Wolsey's Chief Agent. By Late 1530 Wolsey's was disgraced and on his journey to the Tower of London he died. Thomas Cromwell was sworn into the King's council and he rose rapidly thereafter. Cromwell set about changing the course of History, unlike Cardinal Wolsey's, Cromwell was not a priest or a papist; he was a lawyer, his own character, methodical, detached and above all calculating upon government issues. Cromwell's first reform was to make the government effective and efficient; it was a modern form of government; based on a bureaucracy staffed by capable people who worked to a series of rules and procedures. Departments were created that dealt with the specifics associated with that department and only those specifics. Each department's received money from pre-specified sources and in turn were rigorously audited so there was no over lapping on money paid out. In 1531 Cromwell became a member of the King's Privy Council this was his second reform. Henry had one hundred men as advisors, however, not everyone turned up for a meeting, and they were normally dominated by one person. Cromwell arranged to have the Privy Council made up of twenty men of choice; dealing with the day to day running of government, in theory, no individual could dominate the proceedings. Cromwell became Chancellor of the Exchequer by 1533, each year after he continued to gain a new title. The main thing for Henry around this time was to receive his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cromwell made it possible with a planned Break from Rome followed by making Catherine's marriage to Henry Invalid. 1534 onwards, motions were in place for the dissolution of the monasteries and establishment of the Royal supremacy. Cromwell's rise was vastly helped by supporting the ambitious Anne Boleyn, but a few years after, Anne became a liability. Boleyn no longer held the King's favour, Cromwell was given the task of getting rid, it was a complete betrayal on Cromwell's part he produced some trumped up charges of adultery, incest and witchcraft, Anne Boleyn was executed May 19th 1536. Cromwell founded the most famous departments Ministries of Augmentations and First Fruits, to handle income from the dissolution to the King's treasury. Also in use at this time were the two courts of Wards and Surveyors which allowed more efficient taxation and leasing. Cromwell then put his power and deviousness into full force with a new invention the printing-press, spinning the first propaganda campaign in English history. He quickly moved to po

Really excellent historical mystery

Lawyer (and hunchback) Mathew Shardlake is minding his own business, trying to protect his clients and make a living. But when he agrees to represent a young woman accused of murder, his old nemesis, Lord Thomas Cromwell (not Oliver Cromwell of the English Civil War but his ancestor and Henry VIII's great advisor) has an opportunity to pressure Shardlake for help. And Cromwell needs help. The marriage he arranged for King Henry has turned into a disaster. Henry won't even look at Anne of Cleaves and now is sniffing after the niece of Cromwell's greatest rival, the Duke of Norfolk. Cromwell's hope is Greek Fire. In the wreck of a dissolved monastery, a clerk and his alchemist brother discovered the original Byzantine formula for Greek Fire--a napalm-like substance used by the Byzantines to defend their city but lost to history. Henry VIII is beset by the Catholic nations of France and Spain. With Greek Fire, his navies can rule the seas (remember that although gunpowder was known at this time, cannon were still primative and dangerous to those firing them as well as to those being fired at). But Shardlake is conflicted. He no longer feels passion for the Christian commonwealth and fears that another weapon will simply mean more killing. Still, Cromwell has him over a barrel and he can't ignore the summons. Together with Cromwell's aide, Barak, Shardlake investigates the origins and nature of Greek Fire--and discovers a trail of death. Every time he seems to get close, another body stops his progress. In the meantime, Shardlake needs to solve the case of the accused woman--before she is pressed to death in an attempt to force a plea. Author C. J. Sansom does a fabulous job describing the legal landscape, political infighting, protestant/catholic collision, and physical nature of Tudor England. But Sansom personalizes the conflicts and settings. The evolving relationship between Shardlake and Barak draws the reader in, as does Shardlake's attraction to the beautiful and noble Lady Honor. DARK FIRE is one of the best historical mysteries I've read in a long time. I definitely recommend this one.

Excellent read

Tudorian England is brought to life in this highly suspenseful novel of murder and mayhem in London. Its 1540, and King Henry is preparing to divorce his fourth wife, the German Anne of Cleves, and marry "the harlot" Catherine Howard. All of London is on shaky ground, as loyalties shift back and forth. Everyone is concerned that, with Catherine as Queen of England, the country will be returned back to its Catholic past. Into all this comes Thomas Cromwell, advisor to the king and strongly out of disfavor due to the Cleves marriage. Cromwell feeels that he must get back into the graces of king by digging up Greek Fire- a Weapon of Mass Destruction that could make or break the future of England. He will give the king a demonstration on June 10th- an inocuous day, since it turns out to be the day on which Cromwell is arrested by the king's men. Greek Fire itself, a real substance, was invented by the Byzantines and needs petroleum in order to make it work properly. It is called Dark Fire because the formula is of a black color. The author made up the whole bit about Greek Fire being rediscovered, since there is no way that the English could have known about natural gas in the 16th century. Despite this, this is an excellent read. Matthew Shardlake is a highly regarded lawyer in the City. On the same day that he is hired to investigate Greek Fire, he is also called to investigate the case of Elizabeth Wentworth, who supposidly pushed her cousin Ralph down a well. The case is a gruesome one; and what is found down at the bottom of the well is not for the sqeemish. The case of Greek Fire leads Shardlake and his assistant, Barak, to investigate the ruins of the old monasteries, torn down in the eight years since King Henry's break with Rome. In the course of their investigation, they have run-ins with a pock-faced man, a wealthy noblewoman, and the uncle of Catherine Howard. London is detailed in intimate detail, and emphasis is placed upon the lives of ordinary people in 16th-century London. This is an exciting, fast-paced read, good for anyone who likes mysteries and historical fiction. In addition, the author includes a very helpful historical note at the end which details the historical authenticity of Greek Fire and explains the whole Henry-Anne of Cleves-Catherine Howard-Thomas Cromwell deal.

Even better than his first book

I had plans for this weekend. I had household projects to finish, a few errands to run, that sort of thing. None of them were accomplished, because -- for the first time in a long time -- I fell headfirst into a novel and didn't even want to climb out. Dissolution was a good book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, because "murder in a monastary" is a familiar trope, it doesn't have as much of a sense of surprise or historical interest. Or perhaps the author is simply getting better with each book -- which is quite an accomplishment, considering how well he writes now. Dark Fire succeeds on a number of levels. The protogaonist is interesting, both as a man of his times and an "enlightened" person who considers difficult questions. The writing immerses the reader in the era: not just the intertwined mysteries to be solved, but the smell of the Thames, the desperation of the beggars who once worked for the monastaries, the fascination with the discoveries arriving from the New World. And boy -- did Sansom pick an interesting time to write about, with political and religious upheaval that affected nearly everyone. Yet, he doesn't let the scenery get in the way of the story. As with most mysteries, it's difficult to discuss the plot without giving it away. I'll just say that it's deliciously complex without being so twisty that you lose track of what's happening. Great book, in other words. The sort we all love to discover. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a novel to keep your mind engaged without requiring serious scholarship.

Darkly brilliant

C J Samson's second novel opens three years after the events at Scarnsea and we find our hunched hero, Matthew Shardlake getting involved in a criminal case where Elizabeth Wentworth is accused of the murder of her cousin. The facts are sketchy, Matthew's convinced of her innocence. The only problem is the accused refuses to speak. Cromwell steps in to gain some time from the accused being peine forte et dure but the cost is Matthew must convince the renegade augmentation clerk, Gristwood to hand over the newly re-discovered formula to greek fire. Which swiftly proves impossible as Matthew and his new side-kick, Barak, find Gristwood dead. What follows are three plots lines as Samson weaves them altogether in a tangle so you're never sure which character is actually associated with which nefarious deed. Matthew rides round London, first on Chancery, then on another steed after Chancery winds up dead after saving Matthew's life, with twelve days to save Elizabeth, find out who is removing his cases from him and discover the whereabouts of the alchemist's formula. Into the mix Samson stirs the lawyer, Bealknapp, with his unsavoury eye for financial gain, Sir Richard Rich, who is going round converting dissolved monasteries into tenement deathtraps, Lady Honor Vaughan, famous for her sugar parties and eclectic dinner conversation, the overly boorish and ambitious Lord Norfolk, the poorly lineaged but ever-grasping Serjeant Marchamount, and Matthew's master again, Lord Cromwell. Amongst it all a host of supporting characters from the downright nasty Wright and Tokey to the apothecary, Guy (from the first novel) move amongst the slums and mansions of London, from the Thames to the suburbs. With Barak at his side they race through St Paul's Cathedral, jump walls and climb down wells, leap from burning buildings and dig up corpses as the pair weave through the growing list of murders to find conspiracy at a personal and political level that reaches from the courts to the King. By the end Matthew has unravelled the mysteries, a new political order is in place and loose ends are tied up as he heads north for a quiet life. Samson's writing is electric, clearly at the same level as Susanna Gregory as he brings Tudor London to vivid life where its harshly regulated lifestyle of informers and accusors draws the reader into breathing the very dirty air of such a tormented city. The prose is crisp and precise, the characterisation pointed, the plot effusive. Utterly worth reading and hopefully Samson will produce more tales of his put-upon hero for this reader, at least.
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