The Bone Fire: A Somershill Manor Mystery

Written by S. D. Sykes
Review by Susan McDuffie

The Black Death stalks England in 1361, and Oswald de Lacy seeks safety for his family. He brings them to an isolated castle on an island in the Fens where his eccentric friend Godfrey hopes to spend the winter in safety. The gates of Castle Eden are locked tight against the plague and anyone who might harbor it. Besides Godfrey, the castle shelters his brother Edwin, a few servants, some visiting nobles from London, and their unusual child, a European clockmaker and his assistant, and an elderly monk, who is Godfrey’s uncle, along with his pet crow. But there is trouble in paradise.

First Godfrey is murdered, his body found hidden in the clockmaker’s wooden chest. His brother Edwin now is heir to the castle, although he swears he did not murder Godfrey. But other slayings follow, and Oswald finds no shortage of suspects. Oswald is forced to solve the murders to keep his own family safe, although his investigation puts him at risk of dying from the plague itself.

Between the Black Death and the murders, bodies mount up rapidly in this historical mystery. Oswald is an interesting sleuth; quite modern in some of his views. The mystery is the fourth in the series, but readers need not have read the others to enjoy this book. At times, I found the characters just a tad too contemporary in their speech patterns, and perhaps their attitudes as well to fit my vision of that era. The plot moves along at a swift pace. The setting is suitably gloomy and claustrophobic, and a clever ending ties everything together. Historical mystery fans should enjoy this trip to the Middle Ages.