It is now 1540, Henry VIII still on the throne and Matthew Shardlake the Lincoln’s Inn lawyer is defending a young woman accused of murdering her cousin. Dark Fire is book 2 in this series by CJ Sansom and one in which Matthew is sent for by Thomas Cromwell yet again. Cromwell is King Henry’s First Minister of State, a ruthless reformer and fiercely loyal to Henry. But his shining star is falling, it seems other powerful men such as the Duke of Norfolk are plotting against him and he suspects are trying to thwart him in his search for the formula to manufacture Greek Fire, in its day a “weapon of mass destruction” that could set fire to ships, fleets and towns without being quenched until it had burned itself out. Cromwell has only a couple of weeks until he can find the formula and repeat the demonstration for the King he had himself seen a few days earlier.
He appoints Matthew to find the formula, but in secret, because he doesn’t want the King or anyone else to know that he doesn’t yet possess it! This causes a big problem for Matthew as he must question many powerful people without them knowing his real mission or authority.
This book was a big step up from the previous book, Dissolution and is more of a Medieval thriller rather than a murder mystery, as Matthew and his new sidekick Jack Barak (a servant of Cromwell) have to deal with intrigue, threats, violent attacks, and a series of murders as they follow the trail of the formula. A cracking book I read in Audible format, kept me awake late at night for a few days! Highly recommended if you like medieval stuff.