Title / Ashes of London
Author / Andrew Taylor
Publication Date / 2017
Overall Star Rating / ★★★
Goodreads synopsis: London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer. In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.
I actually ended up reading it as one of my holiday reads during the family holiday to Crete this year. I had seen the comparisons to C. J. Sansom and his Shardlake series, so I was interested in trying out this historical fiction. While I did end up enjoying this book, it definitely wasn’t perfect and it kind of proves to me once again not to be pulled in by comparison. To me this was a little disappointing after comparing it to that series. Having said that, it is a pretty compelling book. It’s almost 500 pages long but I managed to finish it pretty quickly because it does grip you into the story. Although I still not entirely convinced by the writing, it is good overall and quite easy to get into. I did find the writing dragged out a few scenes and so the book overall could have done with some cutting, however I never felt this adversely affected my overall reading experience. The author does a pretty good job of creating London during the 1600’s – he’s clearly done his research for this book. I personally find the setting an interesting one and he captures the fire really well, although the tension it creates doesn’t last long. I definitely found this quite a light and easy read – perfect holiday reading really. It’s not a profound book that will have you in deep contemplation but I don’t think it was written to be that sort of book – it’s simply an enjoyable historical fiction. One thing that I wasn’t entirely convinced by was the mystery. Without spoiling it, murders start taking place and there is a certain method that the killer has, but there is no given reason why this is. Why these people are murdered in this way… or maybe I missed something. I just didn’t feel that the mystery elements were fully developed and so I found it a little lacking. I think that is a theme for me with this book – it’s just a bit lacking in certain places as I also wanted more tension/suspense. The characters were good but again I wanted more from them. There wasn’t enough development and to be honest I didn’t really care about the characters. If anything I found them a little annoying, especially one of the main characters Cat – I wasn’t a fan of hers and there was many a time where I questioned what she was doing. Some of her actions make absolutely no sense to me. The ending was kind of anti-climactic but I still enjoyed seeing how it all unfolded. Anyway this definitely had potential but as I’ve already said it didn’t work for me. I’ve seen quite a few great reviews though, so don’t let all this dissuade you from trying it out if you are interested in reading it.
Overall this was a compelling and enjoyable read, but I definitely had a few issues with it. I will say I think it’s great holiday reading or it’s great if you want a lighter read. If you enjoy historical fiction and this time period then I would recommend checking this one out. I would say this has quite slow pacing, so if that is not normally your thing then it may be something to be aware of. Have you guys read this book? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.