Historical whodunnit, set in 1540 London; slightly earlier than the period I'm currently interested in, historical-fiction-wise, but this novel features Greek Fire, so it was a must-read.
The prose is a little bland, and Sansom could do with the sort of editor who spots favourite phrases and ruthlessly excises them. Some of his characterisation seems a little stereotypical, and he's a little too fond of showing off his learning -- either that, or he doesn't trust his readers to know anything at all about the period. (It's what annoyed me most about Jill Paton Walsh's tribute to Sayers, Thrones, Dominions: too full of details about London in the 1930s, which Sayers took for granted.) I'm not an historian, but I can generally pick up meaning from context -- perhaps because I'm an SF reader? -- and I find constant fact-insertion rather distracting.
Oh, and Sansom (describing a boat journey to Deptford) seems to have forgotten (a) Greenwich, just beyond, and (b) Rotherhithe. Though in the latter instance I feel he can be forgiven.
Those quibbles aside, I enjoyed the book very much: excellent pacing, a nice braiding of at least three separate plot threads, some fairly credible Renaissance science (I've been reading the same books as Sansom!) and an intriguing core cast. Matthew Shardwell, the hunchback lawyer protagonist, spends a little too much time feeling sorry for himself: but his acquisition of a new assistant, Barak (Jewish ancestry, poor boy made good and then made bad again) is interestingly disruptive.
This is the second in a sequence: I'll keep an eye out for the first, but am looking forward more to the third.
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place