- Series: Somershill Manor
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Pegasus Books (July 4, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1681773422
- ISBN-13: 978-1681773421
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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City of Masks: A Somershill Manor Novel Hardcover – July 4, 2017
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“Medieval Venice spreads out her treasures for religious pilgrims in S. D. Sykes’s City of Masks.”
- Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
“We are plunged into Sykes’ rich soup of Venetian intrigue; period detail; and increasingly intricate plotting, all with the deeply realized character of Lord Somershill fighting his own demons while investigating. A brilliant addition to the Somershill Manor Novels.”
- Booklist (starred)
“S.D. Sykes spares readers none of the 14th century’s malodorous streets and dark alleyways as Oswald tries to unmask the killer and save his own life.”
“Sykes’s gamble in putting Oswald in unfamiliar terrain pays off, as she again blends a detailed immersion in the time period with a clever mystery plot line.”
- Publishers Weekly (starred)
“The time period is well represented and believable, although the novel has the style of a modern thriller, with layer upon layer of rising tension, risks, and psychological hurdles for its protagonist as he races against time to solve the mystery and to survive. Fast-paced and suspenseful throughout, this tightly written story is intriguing and original and offers much to appreciate.”
- Historical Novels Review
“A Venice whose ancient glories still survive today provides the background for an investigation whose solution is secondary to identifying the cause of Oswald's angst.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“This third series outing offers further insights into Lord Somershill and the past that bedevils him, along with sophisticated plotting, intrigue, and immersion in a fascinating historical setting.”
- Library Journal
About the Author
S. D. Sykes received an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam in England and is the author of Plague Land, The Butcher Bird, and City of Masks, all available from Pegasus Crime. She lives in England.
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A war between the Venetians and Hungarians has delayed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and they have taken refuge with merchant John Bearpark, an old family friend. Their journey was intended to help assuage Oswald's melancholy, though we aren't privy to the cause of his despair until well into the narrative. Despite his depression, our hero can't help being attracted/distracted by the beauty of Bearpark's young and pregnant wife, Filomena.
When Bearpark's grandson Enrico is murdered, Oswald agrees to put his investigative skills to work and find the killer. Though the young man had befriended and tried to cheer him, Oswald's reluctant acceptance of the task is motivated by a need for cash to settle gambling debts he's incurred. Initially the motive for the murder appears to be Enrico's homosexuality, a persuasion punishable by death in the republic, but things are never so simple in Oswald's world.
Oswald has the assistance of Giovanni, Bearpark's clerk, a pious fop, in his investigation. Giovanni, along with Oswald's peculiar mother, offer a bit of comic relief in the novel. Speaking of peculiar, Bearpark's other guests include Bernard and Margery, brother and sister pilgrims who've also been stranded by the war.
Sykes provides plenty of twists and turns in her plot, but I was able to unravel the mystery early on and I didn't find this older Oswald as engaging as the fumbling youth in the previous novels. Still, I enjoyed the story enough to say I'll look forward to more of his adventures.
From the very first page Sykes plunges us into the chaotic alleys of the great city at festival time, revealing a tyrannical, homophobic state and an ever present sense of danger and intrigue. Our uncertain young hero is stranded in the lagoon city due to an inconvenient war with Hungary and has the misfortune to find the grandson of his host lying dead by his lodgings. Events quickly escalate as Oswald runs up a nightmarish gambling debt and all too soon he is inveigled by his host into the next of his ‘investigations’ for a desperately needed fee.
A dank and dangerous character in its own right, the lagoon city is indeed peopled by literal and metaphorical masks, repeatedly foiling Oswald’s attempt to track down the murderer. The sense of place is hugely accomplished, bringing masses of atmosphere while being utterly authentic. What is new here is the psychological (even existential) pain Oswald seems to be suffering. As the story unfolds we detect his depression and a haunting vision that seems to be pursuing him. The significance of this is of course revealed at the end, along with an intriguing new fact that already has me eagerly looking forward to following Oswald in the next of the series.