Set in 1350, British author Sykes’s debut provides everything a reader would want in a historical mystery: a gripping plot, vivid language, living and breathing characters, and an immersive depiction of the past. With England still in the grip of the plague, callow 18-year-old Oswald de Lacy unwillingly assumes the mantle of Lord Somershill after the disease claims his father and brothers. Oswald departs the monastery where he’s been residing and returns home to Kent, where the burdens of overseeing his estate are complicated by the discovery of the body of Alison Starvecrow, a tenant’s daughter, in a neighboring wood. The parish priest, John of Cornwall, insists that a dog-headed man, an emissary of Satan himself, slit the girl’s throat. Cornwall whips the locals into a hysterical fury, impeding Oswald’s efforts to discover the truth. From the opening line, “If I preserve but one memory at my own death, it shall be the burning of the dog-headed beast,” Sykes grabs the reader by the throat. Agent: Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/22/2014 Release date: 02/01/2015 Genre: Fiction
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