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Inferior to "Dissolution", but Entertaining
on August 17, 2006
I picked up "Dark Fire" with high hopes, having thoroughly enjoyed the first Mathew Shardlake mystery, "Dissolution". However, "Dark Fire" proved to be a very different kind of novel. The pace was much slower, and the plot less intricate, even if based on interesting ideas (Greek Fire, a rediscovered weapon of the ancient world). Matthew Shardlake, the hunchback lawyer, was still an engaging character, but this second volume of his adventures lacked the self-discovery and character development of the first. Foul-mouthed and insolent Jack Barak, servant to Lord Cromwell, accompanies him in his investigations in "Dark Fire", and, despite being irritating at first, proved to be a very likeable character. I look forward to his return in future books.
Despite some disappointment in "Dark Fire", I remain interested in the Matthew Shardlake series as a whole, and look forward to the next book, "Sovereign". I would recommend you read the first book in the series, "Dissolution" before reading "Dark Fire"--although it is not essential to the plot, it gives a much better portrait of Matthew Shardlake's character.