Satan’s Fire written by Paul C. Doherty and featuring Sir Hugh Corbett, a clerk in the court of Edward I of England starts when the King visits York to meet the French envoy, to discuss the terms of marriage between the King’s son and the daughter of the King of France, Phillip III. No sooner had he reached York, than there was an attack on his life, which ultimately is revealed to be a threat from the Old Man of the Mountain and the Assassins. He asks Sir Hugh to investigate the threats as he is convinced the Knight Templars are involved in a conspiracy against him. Sir Hugh himself receives a threat from the same source as he starts to dig for the truth with the added responsibility of finding out a counterfeit who is using Gold to make and circulate coins without the King’s permission.
If compared to the Matthew Shardlake novels of C.J. Sansom, (though it can’t be done) some distinctive points of difference arise. One, unlike Matthew, Sir Hugh definitely remains in the good books of the King, and he himself holds a lot of power. Two, the plot was like a mystery novel with a touch of political conspiracy, which made this book an outright Crime novel, unlike Sovereign (Shardlake novel #3) which had a lot of political conspiracy and turned into a political thriller from being a mere murder mystery. And lastly, the period differs. Sir Hugh is walking when the English are fighting the Scots, the Pope still holds control over Edward I, unlike Matthew whose life saw a different type of anarchy in England, the Reform.
Personally I liked Satan’s Fire more, as I prefer a straight Mystery novel where the murder remains the main plot. The solving of the crime involves clues and twists, which this book had in abundance. And most important, and ironically this has nothing to do with crime, this book involved the Crusades which still remains one of the most favourite topic of History for me.