Having raced through DIssolution last weekened, I'm thrilled to discover Dark Fire, also featuring the hunchback Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake, just as compelling. Set three years after the events of the first novel, it has the honest barrister once again forced to work for Lord Cromwell - a man who still strikes terror into all, but who is on the verge of losing his power and his head thanks to his attempts to shore up Henry Vlll's dismal marriage to Anne of Cleves. Cromwell intervenes to allow a young girl, accused of murdering her cousin, two weeks' grace in order for Shardlake to track down the secret of "Greek Fire", a fearsome weapon believed to have been rediscovered by two alchemists, now brutally murdered. To assist him in this Shardlake not only has the enchanting Arab physician (now apothecary) and former monk, Brother Guy, but a Jewish man, Barak, loyal to Cromwell. Their difficult relationship and reluctant respect for each other form a most entertaining and thoughful part of a race against time to solve two murder cases. Once again, what is so captivating about this new star of historical fiction is the intelligence and compassion with which he writes. I highly recommend this to all who love really good detective fiction, historical fiction and an intelligent, literate novel that does not disdain a strong plot and characters.