Review | The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

A great backdrop filled with vivid historical detail. 3.5/5 stars.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

London, 1666. As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman, who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster – and across the path of a killer with nothing to lose…

My take:

The second book in this series – The Fire Court – is coming out on 5th April and was available on NetGalley. It sounded interesting but, being a completist, I took the opportunity to go back and request the first book in the series. Always best to start at the beginning!

I haven’t read any historical fiction for a while and I’ve never read anything set in this specific period. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that apart from knowing that the Great Fire happened in 1666, I know little else about it. In fact I don’t know much about the history of the Restoration at all, another reason why I was keen to read this series. And, in that regard I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The historical details, both in the descriptions of London and how the main characters have been affected by the execution of Charles I and the return of his son, Charles II, to the throne, are fascinating.

I think London itself was my favourite character. It’s unusual to read about such destruction in the city, and always amusing to hear Chelsea being described as miles from the action and “out in the country”. The detail which had the most impact on me was the darkness. In our world of permanent home and street lighting, it’s hard to imagine a city in total blackness, lit only by the eerie glow of dying fire, but Talyor’s descriptions bring it to life.

I thought the mystery was handled well. Although I would stress this is more mystery than thriller and anyone looking for a fast-paced story might be disappointed. The story is split between two narrative points of view: Cat Lovett and James Marwood. This allows the mystery to have a few different levels. There is a Columbo-style element: we already know who is behind the events and watch the investigators catching up. Then there is another element which neither of the narrators are entirely “in on”, and finally a few additional twists to keep us guessing to the final pages.

The last few chapters, based in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, were particularly effective and delivered a few heart-in-mouth moments before bringing events to a satisfying conclusion.

The true mark of success was that when I came to “the end” I was pleased I had the next book on my Kindle and was keen to carry straight on with the next story.

Overall: fans of historical fiction will enjoy the period details which form a great backdrop for this entertaining mystery.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul




3 thoughts on “Review | The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

  1. Pingback: Review | The Fire Court (Ashes of London 2) by Andrew Taylor | Art and Soul

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