Tag Archives: medieval murder mystery

#BookReview ‘The Bone Fire’ by @SD_Sykes #historical #mystery

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. SD SykesThirteen 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 the title to read my reviews of the first three books in this series:-

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BONE FIRE by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p2ZHJe-63C via @SandraDanby


#BookReview ‘The Butcher Bird’ by @SD_Sykes #historical

When a baby is found dead in a spiky blackthorn bush, Oswald de Lacy, the youthful and reluctant Lord Somershill, must counter the myth and suspicion repeated by locals who blame a huge violent bird. Second in the Oswald de Lacy series by SD Sykes, The Butcher Bird starts fast and doesn’t stop.SD Sykes

Kent 1351. It is a year since England was decimated by the plague. At Somershill Manor in Kent, as around the country, workers are demanding higher pay. Oswald, unable to pay them more because he can’t break the decree of the king, fears the crops will likely fail and the estate’s income will fall further. Houses on his estate are abandoned, crops unsown. Still struggling to behave as he feels a Lord of the Manor must, Oswald’s only way to challenge the untruths circulating about the baby’s fate means he must find the real murderer. Some witnesses have left, some mistake imagination for fact, while others lie.
Unswerving in his dismissal of the supernatural, Oswald believes the child must have been killed by a person. He has to summon his courage and challenge superstition, greed, lies, evil and must grow up quickly. With a hypochondriac and manipulative mother and Clemence, his pregnant, challenging widowed sister who often veers into dislike, Oswald is nineteen and inexperienced. Though hardly ever alone, he has no-one in his corner. The fact that he is a teenager bearing so much responsibility, and power over others, is what makes this series different.
Oswald follows the trail to London where he shows both bravery and naivety. There are touches of humour that made me chuckle, particularly the changed behaviour of his mother’s lapdog, Hector. A meeting there which seems a side story from the main murder proves to be a turning point in Oswald’s journey, in more ways than one.
This is an original medieval series with a wonderful mix of spiky characters and clever plot ideas. Definitely not a substitute CJ Sansom, this series stands on its own merits. But don’t jump

Here’s my review of the first in the series, PLAGUE LAND.

If you like this, try:-
The Last Hours’ by Minette Walters
Wakenhyrst’ by Michelle Paver
The Witchfinder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BUTCHER BIRD by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ty via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Plague Land’ by @SD_Sykes #historical #plague

I’ve realised that when I start reading the first book in new series, I should have different expectations. It will not be a standalone novel so there will be continuing threads, unanswered questions and seemingly unrelated sub-plots which all come good in later books. In other words, I wear my ‘be patient’ hat. Plague Land by SD Sykes is first in the historical mystery Oswald de Lacy series. Set in 1350 in countryside ravaged by the plague, teenager Oswald reluctantly finds himself called home from the monastery to be lord of the manor. For almost the whole of the book, he is out of control of events. SD Sykes

This is a historical mystery with an uncertain, inexperienced young lord at its centre. Oswald’s mother and sister are rude to him, the locals simply ignore him, his servants show a lack of respect. A neighbouring lord and the local churchman see him as easy to manipulate and when he is new to his role, Oswald agrees with them. He longs to return to the monastery with his mentor, Father Peter, who returned to Somershill Manor with Oswald. Sykes does a good job portraying a young adult trying to occupy a mature man’s role. What drives him on is an incurable determination to find the truth and an endearing bravery which makes him ask awkward questions and takes him to places he probably shouldn’t be.
When one young woman from the village, then another, are killed in mysterious circumstances, Oswald doesn’t so much lose control of the situation as never hold control in the first place. Rumours of dog-headed monsters rip through the community despite Oswald’s attempts to engage the villagers in logical analysis. Superstition, fear and myth abound in a countryside empty of people; understandable following the horror of death, disease and poverty of the plague.
Many people are not how or who they seem and Oswald learns the hard way not to take appearances or counsel for granted. His questioning of everything and everyone inevitably leads to conflict, and conflict is the beating heart of fiction.
I connected more with Oswald as the story progressed and he was less naive, and now anticipate reading the rest of the series. Coming soon, my review of The Butcher Bird, second in the five-book Oswald de Lacy series.

If you like this, try:-
The Almanack’ by Martine Bailey, #1TabithaHart
Winter Pilgrims’ by Toby Clements #1Kingmaker
Gone are the Leaves’ by Anne Donovan

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PLAGUE LAND by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5nv via @SandraDanby