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Autumn, 1541. Following the uncovering of a plot against his throne in Yorkshire, King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to overawe his rebellious subjects there. Accompanied by a thousand soldiers, the cream of the nobility, and his fifth wife Catherine Howard, the King is to attend an extravagant submission of the local gentry at York.
Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.
But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. As the Great Progress arrives in the city, Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers that holds danger for the King’s throne, and a chain of events unfolds that will lead Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age.
It is the winter of 1537 and England is divided into those faithful to the Catholic Church and those loyal to the King and the newly established Church of England. Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar-general, crusades against the old Church with savage new laws, rigged trials, and a vast network of informers. Queen Anne Boleyn has been beheaded and monasteries are being dissolved-their treasures pillaged and their lands eyed greedily by courtiers and country gentry. But having put down one people’s rebellion, Cromwell fears another might topple the realm. So, when one of his commissioners is murdered in the monastery at Scarnsea on the south coast of England, he enlists his fellow reformer, Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer renowned as “the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England,” to head the inquiry.
When Shardlake and his young clerk and protégé, Mark Poer, arrive at Scarnsea, the two are greeted with thinly veiled…[more]
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.
Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII’s invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.
Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of “monstrous wrongs” committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth.
Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity…[more]
It is spring, 1543 and King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife—but this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies.
Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac who has been placed by the King’s council in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released as his parents want, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?
Then, when an old friend is horrifically murdered, Shardlake promises his widow—for whom he has long had complicated feelings—to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to connections not only with the boy in Bedlam, but with Archbishop…[more]