When a baby is found dead in a spiky blackthorn bush, Oswald de Lacy, the youthful and reluctant Lord Somershill, must counter the myth and suspicion repeated by locals who blame a huge violent bird. Second in the Oswald de Lacy series by SD Sykes, The Butcher Bird starts fast and doesn’t stop. Kent 1351. It is a year since England was decimated by the plague. At Somershill Manor in Kent, as around the country, workers are demanding higher pay. Oswald, unable to pay them more because he can’t break the decree of the king, fears the crops will likely fail and the estate’s income will fall further. Houses on his estate are abandoned, crops unsown. Still struggling to behave as he feels a Lord of the Manor must, Oswald’s only way to challenge the untruths circulating about the baby’s fate means he must find the real murderer. Some witnesses have left, some mistake imagination for fact, while others lie.
Unswerving in his dismissal of the supernatural, Oswald believes the child must have been killed by a person. He has to summon his courage and challenge superstition, greed, lies, evil and must grow up quickly. With a hypochondriac and manipulative mother and Clemence, his pregnant, challenging widowed sister who often veers into dislike, Oswald is nineteen and inexperienced. Though hardly ever alone, he has no-one in his corner. The fact that he is a teenager bearing so much responsibility, and power over others, is what makes this series different.
Oswald follows the trail to London where he shows both bravery and naivety. There are touches of humour that made me chuckle, particularly the changed behaviour of his mother’s lapdog, Hector. A meeting there which seems a side story from the main murder proves to be a turning point in Oswald’s journey, in more ways than one.
This is an original medieval series with a wonderful mix of spiky characters and clever plot ideas. Definitely not a substitute CJ Sansom, this series stands on its own merits. But don’t jump in, start reading the series from book one.
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Here’s my review of the first in the series, PLAGUE LAND.
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BUTCHER BIRD by @SD_Sykes #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ty via @SandraDanby