Plague Land (Hardcover)
A Novel (The Somershill Manor Mysteries #1)
Pegasus Books, 9781605986739, 336pp.
Publication Date: February 15, 2015
In this chilling historical mystery, young girls go missing from a medieval English village and Lord Oswald de Lacy must find the killer before tragedy strikes again.
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 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.
Sarah Sykes brilliantly evokes the landscape and people of medieval Kent in this thrillingly suspenseful debut.
About the Author
Praise For Plague Land: A Novel (The Somershill Manor Mysteries #1)…
Atmospheric and brilliant. Plague Land's haunting denouement is sure to leave readers eager for the next in the series.
It’s no fun reading a medieval mystery if it isn’t steeped in filth, squalor and pestilence. S. D. Sykes gets right to the point in Plague Land, which serves it all up in vivid detail, from the noxious smells to an actual burial pit, heaped with the putrefying bodies of plague victims. A clever plot.
— Marilyn Stasio
Sykes can be described as the 'medieval C. J. Sansom.' Off-the-charts imaginative and breathtaking.
— 'New York Times' bestselling author Jeffery Deaver
Plague Land is an extraordinary debut novel—confident and clever, bringing the reader so close to the history it evokes. I found everything about Plague Land unputdownable as it immersed me so fully in the mid-14th century, carried along as I was by these excellent characters as well as by S.D. Sykes' wonderful writing. There is a lot going on in this book, all of it fully engaging—S.D. Sykes is to be congratulated. One of my top books of 2014 without doubt.
The mystery is engaging and I found the whole subject of the Plague and the feudal system fascinating. It's a period of history I wasn't familiar with but one I'd love to investigate further. This book fills the gap between the late Ariana Franklin and CJ Sansom and I look forward to reading more of the adventures of Oswald and company.
There's a nice, cliché-free sharpness to Sykes' writing that suggests a medieval Raymond Chandler at work, and there are no phony celebrations of the peasantry or earth-mothers thrusting herbal concoctions down grateful throats. Plenty of action and interesting characters, without intervention of the libertarian modern conscience that so often wrecks the medieval historical novel.
Sykes' debut, the first of a planned series, immerses the reader in the filth and ignorance of medieval Kent, presents a puzzling mystery and introduces a hero who grows in stature as his problems increase.
With political intrigue and the social barriers of the Middle Ages in play, Sykes adds an intricate and intriguing debut to the ever-widening pool of medieval-era mysteries. Thrilling plot twists and layered characters abound in this rich tale of murder and mystery in 14th-century Kent.
If you're looking for a well written and engaging book set in the Middle Ages, or you happen to like thrillers, mysteries and "whodunits," then this is your cup of tea. Sykes has really reset the bar for medieval mysteries. Throughout the book, every clue brings with it unexpected twists and turns. When you think you know who the killer is, you're slapped with yet another surprise.
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. From the opening line, Sykes grabs the reader by the throat.
Dark and disturbing, but is written so well that we are carried forward, eager to solve the enigmas. I do have to emphasize the skilful creating of medieval country life that folds us in dark evil-smelling, shadowy England. I truly lost all sense of time while reading it.
Sarah's ability to turn the tension up to eleven when she needs to means that we aren't shifting in our seats for long. Suspicions abound, one theory being very close to a Conan Doyle although we don't discover the truth until the end. It's dark and there's gore with a tone similar to Cadfael including moments of dry wit that bring unexpected smiles.
An exciting historical mystery with several intriguing characters and lots of secrets. Readers of historical mysteries can hope for another exciting, layered chapter in Oswald de Lacy’s life.
Plague Land is a fascinating historical crime novel about a world turned upside down, inhabited by a rich cast of characters. A terrific debut and a wonderful start to a brand-new series.
— Antonia Hodgson, author of The Devil in The Marshalsea
Plague Land is a gripping historical crime thriller, an engaging coming-of-age story and a richly textured evocation of 14th Century Kent. I was totally hooked.
— Jake Woodhouse, author of The Amsterdam Quartet
There are plot twists aplenty. Plague Land is a quest to rebuild identity in an apocalyptic world, a theme that makes this new medieval series one I will be sure to follow.
— Martine Bailey, author of An Appetite for Violets
A compelling murder mystery with a stark yet poetic style [and] a vivid sense of place.
— Rebecca Mascull, author of Song of the Sea Maid