• Dark Fire

  • A Matthew Shardlake Novel
  • By: C. J. Sansom
  • Narrated by: Anton Lesser
  • Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (60 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about Dark Fire

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful narration

A wonderful narration by Anton Lessor who, as ever, delivers a marvellous performance of an intriguing story

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Compelling plot and characters

This is the second in this series that I’ve listened to. Anton Lesser is faultless as a narrator. I have bought all the others in the series now as I really enjoy the plots and well-researched historical setting. I also find Matthew Shardlake a very believable and likeable protagonist.

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Worth a listen

I did not expect to like it so much. I think the narrator did a great job.

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    4 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Andy Hurley
  • 11-30-12

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.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave
  • 01-03-09

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary
  • 11-06-08

stunningly good

This is the second of the Matthew Shardlake stories and, if possible, even more fascinating and exciting than the first. The world of everyday London at the time of the rivalry between Thomas Cromwell and the Earl of Norfolk - its sensations and its intrigues - I found utterly convincing. The characters of the lawyer and his assistant have human flaws as well as courage and integrity and one cares about them - in fact, all the people in the story are three dimensional. It is an irresistible mixture of flavours - complex plot, touching characters and incredible pace. Lots of blood and gore - but the horrors fulfill an important function in the overall effect of the novel. There is much in this world that echoes our own.

Anton Lessor's splendid reading is remarkable for its range and its underlying humanity. I can't think of many better ways to spend 7 hours than entering this world created by C J Sansom.

4 people found this helpful

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  • SRF
  • 05-31-18

Keep them coming

I am unashamedly an Anton Lesser fan. I could happily listen to him reading a telephone directory. Fortunately we have him reading a good story; well written with well developed characters. Great . Easy. Satisfying

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tina
  • 07-13-21

I adore Anton Lessers acting.

Stunning voice acting... Wonderful storytelling. I listened in one go!!! You will love it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jason Kinmond
  • 03-20-21

Brilliant narration as ever by Antonio lesser

A well written tale - seems authentic in its time and place, but made really enthralling by Anton Lesser.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Matt Lyward
  • 06-12-19

Another cracker!

I'm really loving this series of novels. Found the first one by accident and now will listen to the whole series before going on to anything else. Well written and evokes the time they are set perfectly. Great tangling webs of plot.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-07-18

Shardlake books are really worth listening to!

Good story & characters & reader. Hooked me to the very last word. Seems historically accurate. Intriguing whodunnit & bit of a thriller, combined with compassionate insight into the decent people trying to live through precarious Tudor times.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Irene
  • 05-06-15

Dark Fire

This is the second Shardlake mystery I've listened to. I enjoy them mainly for the background information, and trivia, which Sansom, a historian, gives about the era. The plots are a bit transparent and some of the escapes improbable, but they do reflect many of the tensions and conflicts which marked the period from the break with Rome well into the 17th century. I will listen to just about anything Anton Lesser reads.

1 person found this helpful

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  • R M
  • 12-02-14

Dark fire

If you could sum up Dark Fire in three words, what would they be?

A page turner

What was one of the most memorable moments of Dark Fire?

Barak singing his hair and eye brows.

What does Anton Lesser bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

I read the book first, but I really enjoyed it being read too me. Lesser reads it so well and is captivating.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the house was blown up and I thought Shardlake was dead.

Any additional comments?

I have enjoyed all the books in this series.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Julie Swanepoel
  • 06-26-17

Gripping!

brilliant read, or listen., can't stop until it is finished. the reading is impeccable. can't wait to start the next tale in the series.