Published in Issue 23 of Visionary Tongue, Winter 2007.

DBook two in the Matthew Shardlake series by an author I admit I’ve never heard about before, despite my love of good historical fiction. This really was a case of not judging a book by its cover, as the copy I picked up for 50p in a charity shop in Lowestoft in the summer was rather tackily emblazoned with a cover consisting of too much fake gold leaf writing and a dodgy picture of a castle. Luckily as it turned out the back cover caught my attention.

Dark Fire is set during 1540 Tudor England who’s finely realised main character; Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer for an unenviable talent for solving crimes for none other then Thomas Cromwell.
The novel, despite being the second of currently three novels with Shardlake in, is totally stand alone, and whilst historically crime fiction may not appeal to all, and has been widely covered in the past, Dark Fire scores deeply with its excellent attention to detail.

The main characters are finely realised, and most importantly, believable. The setting is painted with such care that you instantly transported into the late medieval world, surprising not that far removed form our own in shocking violence and power politics. A rare treat, which actually was hard to put down, and has eagerly shown the way to the other novels in the series.

Pan Books ISBN: 978-0330450782

Review by Jamie Spracklen