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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award, Dark Fire revisits acclaimed master of historical fiction C. J. Sansom's colorful and rapier-witted lawyer, Matthew Shardlake.

Set in 1540, this beguiling tale of murder and mayhem is set against a rich backdrop of medieval London. Here, hunchbacked Matthew Shardlake is called upon to investigate the peculiar case of a young woman accused of murder.

©2004 C. J. Sansom (P)2008 Recorded Books, LLC

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  • Bill
  • Kailua Kona, HI, United States
  • 08-03-12

Murder & Intrigue ~ Lawyers & Psychopaths

This is a terrific historical mystery, enveloping you in two great mysteries (and several minor ones) played out in the world of Tudor England.

This is an exceptionally well-told tale. Listening, you are almost overcome by the stench of 16th Century London, with its uncapped, seeping cesspools and brown Thames. You are confronted by the hardened bullies and thugs who dominate its streets and its halls of justice, by the frightened and harried peasants worn down by a decade of "reform" and a lifetime of toil, and by a few everyday heros who try to do right against extraordinary odds.

Sansom is a talented historian who brings to real life not just the streets of London but also the intrigue of the Tudor Court, the class pretensions of its aristocracy, and the corruption seeping through its foundations. Against this backdrop play out two engaging mysteries ~ the seemingly straight-forward murder of a young boy and the possible rediscovery, after centuries, of a horrible weapon of war.

Matthew Shardlake, our lawyer-detective, plumbs these mysteries, aided by a charmingly rough-hewn companion. His travails will keep you intrigued and you will be glad that this is a long tale ~ you won't want it to end.

This second Shardlake mystery is a complete success.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Julie
  • Brooklyn, NY, USA
  • 10-14-09

Great Historical Mystery

If you've read Dissolution, you'll know C.J. Sansom is a great mystery and character writer. His books are quite long so I decided to start listening to the audiobooks and I enjoyed the narrator for this one. He does good comical accents for people the listener is supposed to dislike/be suspicious of. I also like the book for the introduction of a new sidekick for Shardlake.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Wadie
  • Santa Ana, CA, United States
  • 05-29-09

Very good

Mathew Shardlake is at it again! Working for Cromwell he tries to solve a mystery that turns out to be a mystery within a mystery! As an aside there is a young woman accused of child murder. This side story turns down a dark, dark lane. While some of the moves are predictable, they are satisfying. I appreciate an author who plays fair with me!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • United States
  • 02-23-11

Great listen!

Well written, great historical details, well developed plot -- a delightful listen!
First rate narration by Steven Crossley too
I have a new Favorite Author / Narrator combo

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Brenda
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 06-28-11

Superb series and narrator!

The Shardlake books are the most enjoyable books I've read/listened to in a long, long time, and Dark Fire is my favorite of the series (all are excellent though). In Shardlake, Sansom has created a personable and compelling entry into the foreign world of Tudor times. Add in amazing plotting and characterization, and you've got a superb series to sink your teeth into. Crossley is one of my favorite narrators; as always, he does an amazing job of bringing to life all the different characters.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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medieval homeroom

What made the experience of listening to Dark Fire the most enjoyable?

Sansom does an amazing job depicting the political intrigue, protestant/catholic tension, the overall nature of Tudor England and the legal world surrounding it. Such a backdrop personalized through sturdy character development makes it that much more consuming. The new relationships Shardlake develops through searching out a murder and all that surrounds it had me bound to the story from beginning to end.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirsten
  • columbia, MD, USA
  • 04-07-09

Believable yet enveloping

I had read Dissolution, so I understand the narrator's disillusionment with Henry VIII's religious practices. The book provides brief background so it can be read stand-alone. At times, the names of characters can be a little confusing as to who's who, but it'll make sense as you go along. All-in-all, a story that makes you want to stay in your car.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Elaine
  • Shaker Heights, OH, United States
  • 10-26-11

this was fun

I enjoyed this as much for the picture of 13th century England as I did for the story
The narrator was terrific and the story detailed enough to hold one's interest without
getting lost in extraneous material.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Cheryl
  • Douglasville, GA, United States
  • 12-04-14

Fantastic Historical Fiction . . . loved it!

I enjoyed the first book in the series: "Dissolution", however, after reading the second book, "Dark Fire", I must say that it is as good as or even better than "Dissolution." I really like the main character in "Dark Fire", Shardlake, who is a hunchback, a lawyer and the hero. I also liked getting to know the other characters in the story.

I enjoyed reading all of the details about Tudor London circa 1540 . . . the disgusting smells they lived with; their black teeth from eating sugar that only the rich could afford (there were no dentists); the feasts that would display the confectionery wealth; the guests at the feasts responsible for bringing their own knife; the knowledge that some women painted their teeth black so that they looked like they could afford to buy sugar.

Also interesting was the travel by boat instead of walking through the sewage filled streets! The entertainment mentioned was bear baiting. All of this historical information is included so nicely with the narrative about a deadly weapon of war - Dark Fire. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Sovereign, book #3 in the Shardlake series.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Another enjoyable historical novel from Sansom

This second of Sansom's series that takes place in Henry VIII's reign is quite intriguing. I continue to be amazed at Sansom's ability to combine real historical figures with fiction to create a fascinating mystery.

In this outing, Matthew Shardlake is again drawn into the web of Thomas Cromwell, after disassociating himself with Cromwell a few years before (in Dissolution). The scene is spring of 1540, only a few months before the real Cromwell falls out of favor and finds himself in the Tower, so I was in constant fear of Matthew's being caught up in Cromwell's final fall. However, the story is much more convoluted than that and has two plots going on at once. Plenty to keep you guessing at how Shardlake is going to get himself out of his various predicaments!

The former Brother Guy, the apothecary, makes a welcome return appearance, and a few other characters take the stage who I expect will be back in the next book of the series.

At this point, I must praise the narrator for a most excellent job. He makes sure to differentiate the voices of the different characters with a myriad of accents, enabling the listener to keep everyone straight. I have read complaints from other reviewers about the reader giving Brother Guy an "Eastern European" or "Russian" accent, but I think that the accent is just exotic enough to accurately characterize Guy, who is apparently a Moor with a complicated background.

I also enjoyed the afterword recorded by Sansom at the end, explaining a lot of the historical information and the ways in which he fit his characters into the story.

Looking forward to the next one!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful