cover image The Bone Fire

The Bone Fire

S.D. Sykes. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64313-197-9

Set in 1361, Sykes’s excellent fourth whodunit featuring Oswald de Lacy (after 2017’s City of Masks) finds Oswald traveling with his family from Somershill Manor in Kent to the Isle of Eden, an island surrounded by marshes on England’s south coast, to avoid the bubonic plague. Their destination is Castle Eden, a place of refuge offered by Oswald’s friend Godfrey, Lord Eden. Once the castle portcullis lowers behind them, Oswald and his party are cut off from the outside world. Godfrey, who believes the pestilence to be a manifestation of divine punishment, has several other guests plus supplies to last for months. Soon after the nobleman asks Oswald to deliver two sealed envelopes in the event something happens to him, one addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Godfrey is found dead in a tool chest with a head wound. Oswald must ascertain which of the castle’s other occupants is responsible, while keeping his family protected from the deadly contagious disease. Sykes effectively uses her diligent research in the service of a memorable plot. This outing reinforces her place in the historical mystery genre’s top ranks. Agent: Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Sept.)