And By Fire

Written by Evie Hawtrey
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Detective Inspector Nigella Parker of the Crime Investigation Directorate partners with London Metro policeman Colm O’Leary when first a wood effigy and days later an actual body are found burned at sites commemorating the Great Fire of London. In the days before and shortly after the fire in 1666, Margaret Dove, maid of honor to Queen Catherine of Braganza, and fireworks maker Etienne Belland investigate the murder of a friend and bookseller, his body found just outside the burning crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Writings from Christopher Wren himself describe his plans to raise St. Paul’s and London from the ashes of the fire by whatever means may be necessary.

And By Fire neatly transitions from present to past, highlighting contrasts yet reinforcing similarities. The storyline resolves both a current and a historical mystery, juxtaposing modern day investigative techniques (CCTV footage, forensics) against the only tools available in 1666 (careful observation and scientific thinking) to reconstruct events and identify a culprit.

Lead female characters operate in societies with decidedly different attitudes about their qualifications and roles, yet they must wrestle with familiar challenges: conflicts between personal and professional expectations, duty, and love.

At the same time entertaining and enlightening, the narrative reveals how established monuments to the past sometimes keep inaccuracies alive and how largely forgotten events and figures can fester.