The Ashes Of London by Andrew Taylor

London, 1666, and Londoners are being a little distracted by the fire that’s raging around them. And while the events of L C Tyler’s Fire are presumably unfolding in the background, St Paul’s burns. Watching the conflagration is James Marwood, the son of a traitor to the current King’s father and a current government informer.

When a dead body is pulled from the cathedral, stabbed instead of burned, and with his thumbs tied together, Marwood is charged with finding the killer. But at the same time, a young woman, Cat, the daughter of another man with a treasonous past is starting her journey, a journey that will eventually intersect with both Marwood and the killer.

I had very high hopes for this book. An historical thriller from an acclaimed author, an interesting period of history… I guess I was sort of hoping for a new series of historical mysteries that I could sink my teeth into. So what didn’t work for me?

There is an issue with the plot – it’s called an historical thriller for good reason, as I think someone looking for a mystery should look somewhere else. I felt from the blurb that it was being sold as a mystery – although on re-reading it, I’m not entirely sure why. The finale, while certainly dramatic, was lacking in enough of a surprise for me. But it was the characters that bothered me more.

Not the leads, let me make that clear. Marwood, who is the focus for half the chapters, writes in the first person, and while he himself is an fascinating point of view character, I always think it is a challenge to flesh out other characters when writing in this style. The same problem applies to Cat’s sections as while they are in the third person, everything focuses on her. By only looking at two characters for the whole 500ish pages, I felt like I wasn’t really getting the whole story.

All in all, this didn’t quite work for me. Fans of historical fiction with a thriller element to it, should find plenty to like, but there wasn’t enough plot surprises here and there weren’t enough engaging supporting characters to keep my attention. Do take a look at other reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, as I think I might be in a minority here, but I can’t really recommend it as a mystery. As an historical thriller, it’s well worth a look.


  1. Well that’s disappointing. I had been intrigued by this title as the period seems like a perfect setting for a mystery. It certainly is one that would interest me. I appreciate knowing that if I do decide to pick it up I shouldn’t expect great things as a mystery.


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