It is 1540, and Matthew Shardlake, the lawyer renowned as "the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England," is pressed to help a friend’s young niece who is charged with murder. Despite threats of torture and death by the rack, the girl is inexplicably silent. Shardlake is about to lose her case when he is suddenly granted a reprieve—one that will ensnare him in the dangerous schemes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar-general.
In exchange for two more weeks to investigate the murder, Shardlake accepts Cromwell’s dangerous assignment to find a lost cache of "dark fire," a legendary weapon of mass destruction. Cromwell, out of favor since Henry’s disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves, is relying on Shardlake to save his position at court, which is rife with treasonous conspiracies.
With its wonderful attention to period detail and its brilliant handling of suspense, Dark Fire is sure to win comparisons with Margaret George’s Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles and captivate readers of Philippa Gregory and David Liss.
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C. J. Sansom, the internationally bestselling author ofthe novelsWinter in MadridandDominionandthe Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery series,earned a Ph.D. in history and was a lawyer before becoming a full-time writer.From Publishers Weekly:
Matthew Shardlake, the marvelous hunchbacked 16th-century attorney who first appeared in Sansom's Dissolution, returns in this spellbinding Tudor-era tale of murder, conspiracy and betrayal. Shardlake normally handles property cases and the occasional dangerous mission for Lord Thomas Cromwell, the king's high counselor. Now he is engaged to defend a young woman accused of a curious murder, and the case seems hopeless. The girl refuses to speak and, under English law, unless she offers a plea in court she will be slowly crushed to death. Cromwell offers Shardlake a two-week stay of execution if he will agree to undertake a secret mission. Desperate to save the girl's life, Shardlake agrees. Rumors abound of a new and terrifying weapon called Greek Fire, and Cromwell orders Shardlake to find it, along with its secret formula and the two alchemists who possess it. Before Shardlake can even speak to the alchemists, they are brutally murdered, the formula and Greek Fire go missing, and horror and death are unleashed. Fortunately, Shardlake is aided by Jack Barak, a capable rogue working for Cromwell, and his old friend, Guy Malton, a peculiar apothecary. Sansom's vivid portrayal of squalid, stinking, bustling London; the city's wealth and poverty; the brutality and righteousness of religious persecution; and the complexities of English law make this a suspenseful, colorful and compelling tale.
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