SD Sykes lives in Kent with her family and various animals. She has done everything from professional dog-walking to co-founding her own successful business. She is a graduate from Manchester University and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She attended the novel writing course at literary agents Curtis Brown where she was inspired to finish her first novel. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding.
Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by thePlague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate.
He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants.
Yet some things never change. Oswald’s mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.
Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it – by finding the real murderer – is quite a different matter.
Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.
And then the body of another girl is found.
SD Sykes brilliantly evokes the landscape and people of medieval Kent in this thrillingly suspenseful debut.
Even as i write this book im still not 100% sure how i feel about it. The author is clearly talented, the descriptions of post Black Death England (1350) is bleak, filled with the tension of communities at the time, the loss the chaos and the vacuum left behind by so many deaths. The story told from the perspective of Oswald de Lacy , a young man thrust into the forefront of his family, the new Lord of Somerhill Manor, a youngest son never expected to inherit, and destined for the clergy, in fact recalled from his monastery to take the reins.
On returning he struggles with running the estate, an estate that is slowly descending into superstitious bedlam, led there by the local priest Cornwall. Oswald is dragged from his closeted existence worrying about the estate to view a murder, a murder that he is led to investigate and leads him deeper and deeper into the lives of the villagers, the superstitions of the people and the secrets accumulated by the families all twisted into this plot. I’m not going to sugar coat it, some of the mysteries don’t take a genius, but at the same time there are parts that keep you guessing. Like another book i read recently The Royalist the plot isn’t the winner in this book its the characters the descriptive and the language of the time period.
I certainly think you should read this book and decide for yourself, because someone i trust very highly with book recommends Kate gives it a very high recommend, i may even read it again to see if my mood was off or it landed wrong on the day. Either way the book is a descriptive treat and a time capsule on a part of history where few dare to tread, for a debut its very well executed.