The butcher bird

S. D. Sykes

Book - 2016

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MYSTERY/Syke, S. D.
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Series
Sykes, S.D. Somershill Manor mystery.
Subjects
Genres
Mystery fiction
Suspense fiction
Historical fiction
Published
New York : Pegasus Books 2016.
Edition
First Pegasus Books hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
342 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781605989815
1605989819
Main Author
S. D. Sykes (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The second Somesrhill Manor mystery brings medieval England to life with vivid descriptions of frigid cold, starvation, phlegmy ailments, and brutal death. Despite the harsh lessons Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, learned in Plague Land (2014), he is flummoxed by the butcher-bird case. No one is quite what they seem: not the accused madman, nor the foolish servants, nor the priest, and certainly not the women—witches, healers, whores, and flibbertigibbets. Unfortunately, Oswald understands little of governance and less about human nature, as he blunders his way toward solving two babies' murders and his nieces' disappearance, while also battling his own villains and tenants, who are impoverished and prone to hysteria. Sykes masterfully keeps tight rein on a mob of well-developed, colorful characters; creates a strong setting no one would mistake for a backdrop; and winds a twisted path of clues that, when unraveled, will surprise even seasoned puzzle-solvers. This is top-notch writing to rival Oliver Potzsch's Hangman's Daughter tales for gruesome-yet-amusing storytelling, Owen Archer's raw medieval world in Candace Robb's mysteries, and Susanna Gregory's character-centric, complex Matthew Bartholomew chronicles. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

British author Sykes establishes herself firmly as a major talent with this hard-edged sequel to 2015's Plague Land. In 1351, Oswald de Lacy, the lord of Kent's Somershill Manor, learns that his life is a lie. He's actually the son of a peasant, switched at birth with the true heir, Thomas Starvecrow, who died in infancy. The revelation leads him to seek out Starvecrow's grave, which turns out to contain only an effigy. Meanwhile, Oswald's manorial court must deal with madman John Barrow, who claims to have been confronted by a monstrous bird that escaped into the night. Barrow becomes the target of a lynch mob after the corpse of a newborn girl, only just baptized, is left impaled on a thorn bush, as if by a butcher bird or shrike large enough to carry off a child. Sykes artfully integrates both puzzles with the politics of the time, as the survivors of the recent plague, which killed about half the English population, deal with its economic repercussions. Agent: Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Oswald de Lacy, the new Lord of Somershill Manor, must reassure the villagers that the huge creature reported in the sky is just a superstitious rumor, despite the number of children who suddenly disappear, in the sequel to Plague Land.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Oswald de Lacey is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more - something the King himself has forbidden. Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear. Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters. From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald's journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Oswald de Lacy, the new Lord of Somershill Manor, must reassure the villagers that the huge creature reported in the sky is just a superstitious rumor, despite the number of children who suddenly disappear.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more—something the King himself has forbidden.Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear. Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumor, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.