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
"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)
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"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.
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.
"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.
"The best Shardlake"
I know others have attempted but no one can hit Shardlake novels for six with The sheer mastery of Anton Lasser even bearing in mind the quality of the raw material his performance is hands down the best. To any who disagree I can only respond with a put down of the time have a care for your insolence churl!!
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.
"A really gripping story"
An excellent story with suspense and much intrigue. Characters brought to vivid life by narrator Anton Lesser, all around true historical facts.
A page turner
Barak singing his hair and eye brows.
I read the book first, but I really enjoyed it being read too me. Lesser reads it so well and is captivating.
When the house was blown up and I thought Shardlake was dead.
I have enjoyed all the books in this series.
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!
"History and drama hand in hand"
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)
Great performace again, I could listen to him all day. I felt I was there!
I am looking forward to my next purchase.
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.
"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!
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