The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor | #20BooksOfSummer

Author : Andrew Taylor
Title : The Ashes of London
Series : James Marwood #1
Pages : 482
Publisher : Harper Collins
Publication date : April 7, 2016


London, September 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 disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.


Recently, I’ve been on the look-out for more historical crime fiction as it’s a genre I’ve been enjoying quite a bit lately. The Ashes Of London caught my eye as it’s an era I’m not especially familiar with. I had heard of The Great Fire though, so that’s something as that is where this story starts.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 caused quite a few deaths. But St. Paul’s holds another body that didn’t perish in the fire. This victim was murdered before the fire got to them. As James Marwood watches the devastating fire roar, he helps a boy to safety. A boy who later turns out to be a young girl. This girl, Catherine, is trying to find her father. Could he be the murder victim?

For some reason, I couldn’t quite get to grips with this one. While I found it interesting to see the devastation the fire caused across the city, how it affected some but not others and the way it seemed to rain ashes for days on end, I mostly picked this book because I’m a crime fan. And the crime fan in me will always be way more intrigued by the murder investigation. This seemed to often take a bit of a backseat though in this story. There is a lot of walking through the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, a rather big cast of characters which sometimes confused me, conversations of which I felt they didn’t really bring much to the table and a rather slow pace where I was expecting more tension and “oomph”.

The story switches between James and Catherine. Unfortunately for me, neither of these two characters particularly held my interest and I often found my attention wandering. This story of conspiracies and revenge didn’t quite do it for me. I actually have the other books on my shelves and I will be giving them a go at some point. But for now, when I need a historical crime fiction fix, I will return to the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom which, in my most humble opinion, is far more superior.

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Book 10 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

  11 comments for “The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor | #20BooksOfSummer

  1. July 27, 2019 at 10:36 am

    I’ve had this one on my radar for quite some time. Interesting to see you think the Sansom series is better ; I’ve read a few of those but was looking for novels set in a different period…

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 4, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      I may be slightly biased as I love pretty much everything set in the Tudor era.


  2. July 27, 2019 at 11:39 am

    My husband likes crime fiction, but I think he prefers contemporary. Still, I’ll let him know about this one, since he’s originally a Londoner.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. July 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Fab review. Shame it wasn’t crimey enough for you. I can recommend Rory Clements Tom Wilde series set in the 1930s.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. July 28, 2019 at 10:48 am

    You win some, you lose some, sorry this was a bit meh. Maybe it was just the heat that got to you, read the next one in winter 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. July 28, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    We read this for book club and generally was quite popular but didn’t really do it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 4, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      Always nice to hear it’s not just me. At least the covers are pretty 😂


  6. July 29, 2019 at 1:03 am

    I had the same reaction to an earlier book of his set in America – too much description and not enough concentration on the story. I keep being tempted by this new series, but I think I’ll stick t Shardlake too! Have you tried Abir Mukherjee’s Sam Wyndham series? Set in India at the time of the Raj, and the crime stuff is very good.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. August 5, 2019 at 1:06 am

    Haha! Only three so far, and the fourth due soon… but they’re not as long as the Shardlakes, Promise! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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