Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Plague Land by SD Sykes

Plague Land
By S.D. Sykes
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (Hardback - 25 September 2014, Paperback - 21 May 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-444-78577-7

Publisher's description
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 the Plague, 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 women, 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 seem to lead Oswald deeper into the dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.

And then the body of another girl is found.

My verdict
Plague Land kept me hooked from the first page. It's a very well-written historical crime novel, set just after The Black Death.

Oswald has been living at a monastery for 10 years since the age of seven. But following the death of his father and older brothers, he unexpectedly becomes Lord of Somerhill Manor. Returning home, he struggles with his new role in life, as local politics and family matters weigh heavy on his young shoulders. Then a murder on his estate leads him to the darker side of Somerhill Manor. With a local priest spreading rumours of witchcraft and supernatural beings, he realises that it's up to him to find the killer before they strike again.

Many novels set in this time period use modern-day language or try to use old English, which makes it difficult to follow the story. However, the narration in Plague Land made the characters very believable and true to the 14th century, whilst being very readable. The vivid descriptions enabled me to picture the scenes in my mind and I warmed to the characters easily. The plot flowed smoothly, with plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing.

Plague Land is ideal for fans of CJ Sansom. I hope there's another one in the pipeline.

I received a copy of the book through Lovereading's Reviewer Panel (www.lovereading.co.uk) in exchange for an honest review.

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