The Fire Court

Written by Andrew Taylor
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In this sequel to The Ashes of London, Taylor returns to London, rebuilding after the 1666 fire that destroyed much of the city. James Marwood, son of the traitor Nathaniel Marwood, recently released from prison, listens to his rabidly devout and demented father recount his day following his late wife, Rachel, into Clifford’s Inn, only to find a dead whore in one of the rooms typically maintained by lawyers. Within a day, Nathaniel has been run over and killed. This is just the beginning of a well-plotted, often convoluted and multi-layered mystery.

All roads appear to converge in Dragon Yards, where two competing developers are vying for consent by the Fire Court—justices empaneled to resolve disputes arising out of the Great Fire—to rebuild. Who has prior land holdings? How many residences can be built? What should be straightforward becomes increasingly complex as the bodies pile up and there are more fingers in the pot. There must be a connection between all these murders, and perhaps they all begin with the purported whore Nathaniel Marwood finds in Lucius Gromwell’s rooms at Clifford’s Inn.

Taylor’s historical mysteries have always grabbed me and held me. They are intelligent, creative, multi-leveled, and filled to the brim with historical details, an observant eye about issues of the time, and the creation of great characters. Despite the fact that this installment is a stand-alone in my view, I look forward to back-tracking now and reading Ashes, which is on my TBR pile and which introduces the character of Cat Lovett, aka Jane Hakesby. An admirable entry by an extremely talented writer.