The Skull and the Nightingale

Written by Michael Irwin
Review by Fenella Miller

This is a well-written, expertly researched novel set in Georgian England. Richard Fenwick, an orphan, has been supported by his godfather, the wealthy James Gilbert, since his childhood. On his return from the Grand Tour Richard is given an unusual opportunity – that of leading a rackety life in London at his godfather’s expense if he is prepared to recount his exploits, in lurid detail, by letter. Richard is intrigued and agrees; he has no income of his own and relies entirely on the generosity of Mr Gilbert. Initially this strange arrangement appears to benefit both parties, but as the book progresses it becomes apparent Gilbert is more than an interested spectator.

Irwin brings the period and characters alive with his compelling dialogue and authentic historical detail. The Skull and the Nightingale is an excellent novel which would be a good choice for a book club, as there are plenty of issues to discuss. However, for me, it lacked pace and didn’t hold my interest as I’d hoped.