Book 1 in the gripping Oswald de Lacy series, from 'the medieval CJ Sansom' (Jeffery Deaver)
England, 1350: the Black Death has changed the country forever, taking master and servant alike.
Young Oswald de Lacey was never meant to be Lord of Somershill Manor, but when his father and older brothers die of the Plague, he must return home from the monastery and assume responsibility for an estate ravaged by pestilence.
Almost immediately Oswald is confronted with the vicious murder of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The village priest claims it is the work of demonic dog-headed men, a theory Oswald rejects as nonsense. But proving this - by finding the real killer - only leads Oswald deeper into a maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.
And then the body of another girl is found...
'Sykes has really reset the bar for medieval mysteries' Medievalists
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.