I read The Bone Fire by SD Sykes in three days. Fourth in the Oswald de Lacy 14th century series, it’s a classic closed room murder mystery set at the time of the plague in Britain. A disease that everyone feared but no-one understood. Thirteen years after the Black Death the plague has returned to Britain. Oswald, now married with a son, decides to take his family to a castle on an isolated island in the Kent marshes. When the gates are closed for the duration of the winter, he hopes, they will be safe from infection. But one by one, the inhabitants of the gloomy, isolated castle, are killed. Murdered. And with each death, Oswald’s suspects reduce in number. The winter of 1361 turns out to be a long one. The castle is cold, the air is fetid, the food supplies are dwindling, and the temptation to venture beyond the walls into the fresh air of the marshes and woodland are overwhelming. But the risk of infection from plague, even in this empty place, are enormous.
Oswald is a complex detective. He is an uncompromising interviewer, persistent in his questioning, unafraid to threaten. But he is quick to jump to possible conclusions. At the same time he has empathy for all creatures, weak and vulnerable, human and animal, and this a strength and a weakness. Wanting to do the right thing, he brings danger to those closest to him.
This series is improving with every book. The characters are settled, the risks are higher for Oswald now he is a father and husband. There is less scene setting, the action is quicker. Sykes mixes familiar characters – Oswald’s curt selfish mother and son Hugh from Oswald’s first marriage, plus his wife and valet – with the other occupants in the castle on the Isle of Eden. Each brings their own counsel and assistance to Oswald’s investigations, sometimes useful, sometimes misguided. But one of them is a murderer.
I raced through The Bone Fire, a much quicker read than the preceding novels. The teenage Oswald has matured into a complex, mature man living through one of the most difficult times in our history who invariably chooses to take the right path rather than the easy one.
A page turner.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
Click the title to read my reviews of the first three books in this series:-
THE BUTCHER BIRD
CITY OF MASKS
If you like this, try:-
‘The Swift and the Harrier’ by Minette Walters
‘The Key in the Lock’ by Beth Underdown
‘The Ashes of London’ by Andrew Taylor
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THE BONE FIRE by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p2ZHJe-63C via @SandraDanby