It is 1358 and Lord Somershill, Oswald de Lacy, is in Venice with his mother on route to the Holy Land. But Venice is at war with Hungary and the pair are stranded in this city of secrets. City of Masks, third in the Oswald de Lacy medieval mystery series by SD Sykes, sees the young lord investigating the death of a friend. Venice is a wonderful setting for Oswald’s detecting. A closed city with its own rules, customs, prejudices and culture, it is a minefield for a stranger seeking information. Oswald relies on acquaintances and new friends for help. But all is not as it seems. Not all deceivers wear a traditional grotesque Venetian mask, some are in full sight. Oswald’s mother continues to be an irritant to him but is full of surprises and there is tension in the house of their hosts, John Bearpark and his young wife, who is due to give birth. As Oswald’s investigations progress, so do strange happenings at the Bearpark house. Plus, Oswald has the feeling he is being followed everywhere he goes. Even to the dangerous military complex, the Arsenale, to the island of lepers and to the gambling dens where he wins, and loses, money.
In this instalment we learn more of Oswald’s inner devils. He is accompanying his mother on this pilgrimage not because he shares her beliefs but because he is running from a bad memory at home. This dark shame within him will not be repressed and as he closes in on the murderer, his thought processes become fickle and his decision-making unreliable. As the days pass, Oswald must solve the murder or an innocent woman will be executed. And Oswald owes money he doesn’t have, money lost at cards, to a thug named Vittore. Venice is portrayed as a repressive, autocratic society with abuse of the poor and infirm. The surface glitters with beautiful houses but beneath, the foundations are rotting. Each island in the lagoon is a separate territory, outsiders are watched, exploited, killed.
Oswald is an impetuous investigator. He assumes possibilities are fact and pursues numerous wild goose chases. He is not an ideal detective. He stumbles on truths and walks straight into danger. He is emotional and naïve. But hidden in his to-ing and fro-ing around Venice and other islands in the Venetian Lagoon, are hints of the real crime, the real culprits. Venice is riddled with deception and Oswald must learn to see beyond the disguises and dissembling, to apply scepticism to everyone and everything around him.
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Click the title to read my reviews of the first two books in this series:-
THE BUTCHER BIRD
If you like this, try:-
‘The Almanack’ by Martine Bailey
‘The Leviathan’ by Rosie Andrews
‘Dangerous Women’ by Hope Adams
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CITY OF MASKS by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5RO via @SandraDanby