The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes

The Bone Fire Cover

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hardcover – 25 July 2019)

Series: Somershill Manor Mystery – Book Four

Length: 310 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In the mood for a clever and captivating historical murder mystery? Look no further than the latest book from the brilliant S. D. Sykes, The Bone Fire, which continues the adventures of her reluctant 14th century murder-solving protagonist, Oswald de Lacy, who this time finds himself stuck in a unique situation.

After several years of respite, the Plague returns to England in 1361. As a survivor of the original outbreak in 1350, Oswald de Lacy, lord of Somershill in Kent, knows the devastation the sickness can bring. Desperate to save his family, he accepts an invitation from one of his friends, Godfrey, to shelter for the winter in his remote castle in the Romney Marsh with a select company of friends and allies. The rules are simple: once the de Lacy family enters the castle, the gates will be closed and no-one will be allowed to leave until the Plague has passed.

Arriving just ahead of the Plague with his wife, son, mother and valet, de Lacy finds that Godfrey’s castle is a grim refuge filled with a disagreeable group of fellow guests and servants. Despite this, the castle appears to be the safest place for them, especially with the Plague already ravishing the outside countryside. That is until their host is found murdered in his own library.

As the residents deal with the shock of losing the lord of the castle, other bodies are discovered within the castle walls. With nowhere to run except onto the plague-infested island outside the castle walls, de Lacy must once again rely on his talent for solving mysteries to save the day. However, it soon becomes apparent that de Lacy is up against a ruthless killer who delights in violence and is seemingly able to move about the castle undetected. Can de Lacy solve this crime before it is too late, or will he and his family face a fate worse than the sickness keeping them trapped within the castle?

The Bone Fire is the fourth book in Sykes’s Somershill Manor Mystery series, which started back in 2014 with Plague Land. The Somershill Manor Mystery books are an intriguing historical mystery series which follows the investigations of its protagonist in the land devastated by the Black Death. I had not previously read any of Sykes’s books, although her preceding release, City of Masks, is probably one of the books I most regret not reading in 2017.

I was initially drawn to The Bone Fire by the beautiful cover and the really cool-sounding plot, and I thought that this novel had some real potential. I am extremely glad I decided to get a copy of this book, as I was blown away by the fantastic and clever story. Sykes does an excellent job of combining a complex and compelling murder mystery with a unique and fascinating historical setting. The entire story is extremely fast paced, and I found myself racing through the book in no time at all, especially as it proved to be pretty darn hard to disengage from the fantastic story.

Those readers who have not had the opportunity to read any of Sykes’s books can easily enjoy The Bone Fire without any foreknowledge of the previous entries in the Somershill Manor Mystery series. Each of the books in the series can be read as a standalone novel, although existing readers will note the continuation of character arcs from the earlier entries in the series. Some information from the previous books does play a role in the story, including how the protagonist survived the first outbreak of the Plague, however Sykes always does a careful job of reintroducing these elements in The Bone Fire well before they become relevant to the plot.

At the heart of this book lies an excellent murder mystery storyline, as the protagonist is forced to investigate a series of killings in a remote English castle. Sykes has come up with a thrilling murder mystery storyline that follows a twisting and intriguing investigation. The protagonist has a huge bevy of potential suspects, each of whom has their secrets and schemes, which de Lacy has to unravel in order to get to the bottom of the murders, and there are a variety of motives for the killings occurring in the castle. The case goes in some very interesting directions, and the end result was very satisfying, with some well-plotted-out twists and some truly unique motivations for a murder. I had a great time trying to figure out who the killer was, and this was a terrific storyline to centre the book upon.

While the murder mystery storyline is an excellent part of this book, readers will also be entranced by Sykes’s use of a fascinating historical setting. Like the first two books in this series, the author has set the story in the midst of plague-ravished England. However, unlike the previous books, which dealt with the first bout of the Black Death between 1348-51, this story is set in 1361, when a second plague hit the country. This time the populace, including all the characters in this book, were much more aware of how deadly the Plague could be and took steps to try and avoid it. Sykes does an amazing job capturing the subsequent sense of despair, fear and paranoia that emulates from people who previously experienced the Plague, and it makes for a fantastic emotional background to the story. The various theories and ideas of the cause of the Plague are pretty fascinating, as are the methods with which the protagonists attempt to protect themselves from its influence. It also results in some heartbreaking, if not cruel, decisions from the protagonist, who is still traumatised from his experiences during the first sickness, and results in some dramatic character moments.

I really enjoyed the way that Sykes utilised the Plague and other intriguing historical aspects, such as religion, to enhance the murder mystery storyline of this book. The restrictions of the Plague keeping the residence within the castle helped make the story feel like a classic whodunnit in places with a small group of suspects trapped in an enclosed location and only one investigator trying to sort out the entire case. The historical setting also resulted in a number of intriguing potential motives for the story, such as religious differences, complex inheritances, arranged marriages and even clocks, all of which adds a compelling edge to the story.

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes is an exciting and gripping historical murder mystery that is really worth checking out. The author did a fantastic job creating a clever mystery storyline that perfectly utilises its bleak and intriguing historical setting. The end result is a terrific fourth book from Sykes that was a lot of fun to read. It is safe to say that Sykes’s Somershill Manor Mystery series is now firmly on my reading radar, and I will be keeping an eager eye out for the next book in the series.

WWW Wednesday – 14 August 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

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The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Trade Paperback)

This is an intriguing novel that looks at a dystopian society where women are oppressed through a series of rituals.  I am only about 50 pages in at this point, but it is a compelling read.

Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV. USMC (Audiobook)

I have been wanting to read Red Metal for a while now, as I believe it has the potential to be one of the best military thrillers of 2019.  I am three and a half hours into it at the moment, and it is an amazing book that I am having a lot of fun listening to.

What did you recently finish reading?
Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

Howling Dark Cover

Spaceside by Michael Mammay (Ebook)

Spaceside Cover


The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes (Hardcover)

The Bone Fire Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?


The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings Cover

This sounds like a very cool fantasy novel and I am looking forward to checking it out.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 7 August 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Spaceside, Howling Dark Covers.png


Spaceside
by Michael Mammay (Ebook)

Spaceside is a book that I have been wanting to read for some time, and so far it has not disappointed.  I only just started this last night, but I am powering through it pretty darn quickly and it is already an incredible sequel to Planetside, which was one of my favourite books from last year.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

I am still going with this audiobook and I am really enjoying it.  It is a very dark follow-up to Empire of Silence and I am very curious to see where the story goes next.  I should be able to finish this by the end of the week but I still have a bit to go.


What did you recently finish reading?

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Ghosts of the Past by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

This was an exceptional novel from Australian author Tony Park that does a fantastic job combining two historical fiction storylines with a modern thriller.  I will hopefully get a review up for this soon, because it was a really good book.

The Collaborator by Dianne Armstrong

Another great piece of historical fiction from another amazing Australian author.  I have done a review of this book for the Canberra Weekly, which will be published in next Thursday’s edition.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes (Hardcover)

The Bone Fire Cover

I am hoping to read The Bone Fire next.  It sounds like it will be an outstanding historical mystery with a really cool concept.

I have not decided which audiobook I am going to listen to next.  There are a ton of great options out there, and I probably will not make up my mind until after I finish listening to Howling Dark.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 22 July 2019

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a small but interesting collection of books in the last week from several publishers.  I am extremely excited about a couple of these books, but all of them sound extremely good and I hope I get the chance to check them all out.

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Howling Dark Cover

This is the book I am probably most excited about.  Howling Dark is the sequel to Empire of Silence, one of my favourite books from last year.  I have been looking forward to this book for a while, having featured it in one of my Waiting on Wednesdays and my recent Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases list.

I only just got Howling Dark in the last day and was extremely happy when I received my copy.  However, I also got a nice surprise when I saw that Ruocchio mentioned my blog in his acknowledgements.  This was an amazing honour and I am glad that he enjoyed my review of his initial book.

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I am looking forward to checking out Howling Dark as soon as I can, and I am sure that I will really enjoy it.

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes

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This is a pretty amazing sounding historical murder mystery.  I absolutely love the idea of a murderer stalking a medieval castle while the inhabitants are stuck inside avoiding the plague and I am sure this will make for an incredible story.

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati

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Another interesting sounding murder mystery.  At over 600 pages long, Where the Light Enters is a pretty massive read, but I think that it could be worth checking out.

Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett

Star Trek - The Captain's Oath Cover

I have been getting into some Star Trek tie-in novels in the last year, including Available Light and The Way to the Stars, and The Captain’s Oath sounds like it could be another enjoyable read.

The Collaborator by Diane Armstrong

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The final book I got, The Collaborator, sounds like it is going to be a powerful piece of historical fiction, and I look forward to reading this deep and dramatic narrative.

Overall, I think that this is a pretty good book haul.  Each of the titles mentioned above have a lot of potential and it looks like I will have some excellent reading in my future.