Book Review: The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

What’s it about?

A city destroyed.

A killer exposed.

London, 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 traitor, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, the body of a man is discovered in the ashes of St.Paul’s. But he is not a victim of the blaze- there is a stab wound to his neck and his thumbs have been tied behind his back. Acting on orders, Marwood hunts the killer though London’s devastated streets- where before too long a second murder is uncovered.

At a time of dangerous internal dissent, Marwood’s investigation will lead him into treacherous waters- and across the path of a determined and vengeful young woman.

My thoughts

This was our latest book club read and one which held such promise and one which we were all looking forward to reading.  I initially started with an audio book copy but I switched half way through to the Kindle version.  Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the narrator’s voice, it was flat and dull and didn’t work for me. However with hindsight, it matched the story.

If historical fiction is your thing then the factual parts of this novel will really please but therein ends the pleasure I’m afraid.  The book couples mysterious deaths during the period of the Great Fire of London but this book is so much more about the history rather than the mystery; which really isn’t a mystery in the regular sense.  If you like books or TV series such as Columbo whereby you know the culprit and are being lead through the mystery as the detective discovers what’s going on then this will appeal.

Marwood is a pretty dull and uninteresting character and narrated in the first person, the only real character of substance is Cat/Jane and is only given a third person narrative which is a shame and so I didn’t find myself having any real engagement with the characters or empathy towards them.  Although the time period and the historical aspects were the most interesting parts there’s possibly too much historical content and description which is somewhat repetitive; once a place has been described once, I don’t need it to be repeated the next time someone goes there.

The mystery is rushed, all very coincidental with a predictable end.  If you enjoy historical fiction I’d recommend Sarah Waters over this one (but it did make for a good book club discussion).

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 400
Publisher: Harper Collins


  1. April 4, 2017 / 11:25 am

    This has caught my eye before Lindsay. Although I love historical, reading your review I think it would frustrate me (repetition) and bore me.

    Did others in your book club feel the same?

    • April 4, 2017 / 5:45 pm

      As it did me!
      Yes, it was unanimous. We were all of the same opinion.

      • April 4, 2017 / 7:01 pm

        That’s unusual (in my experience). No heated debates then 🙂

  2. April 4, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    Wonderful review. I like historical fiction but I do see how the issues that you raised hindered you from enjoying this book more. I may suggest it to my book-club though.

    • April 4, 2017 / 5:43 pm

      Thank you! If you do read it maybe you’ll have a better experience 🙂

  3. April 4, 2017 / 1:05 pm

    Interesting! I have a review coming up on my blog soon for this one.

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