22 October 2015

Novels to come out of Curtis Brown Creative: #2 The Butcher Bird by SD Sykes

by Leonora Craig Cohen

The havoc visited upon Kent by the Black Death may have died down since the end of SD Sykes’s first historical thriller Plague Land, but at Somershill Manor a new threat is emerging and it will take all Oswald de Lacy’s ingenuity to combat. A baby is found impaled on a thornbush and the villagers on his land believe this to be the work of a supernatural beast, the evil butcher bird. A sceptic in a overly superstitious world, Oswald must race against time to find the real culprit and also prevent his men leaving him for lords prepared to break the new law and pay above the odds for farm work. The plague has changed everything but Oswald still has to do his duty by his dependents, no matter how enticing he might find a certain beautiful but mysterious lady.

SD Sykes’s second novel is a terrific chase through the bustle of medieval London and sleepy, sinister Kent. Oswald becomes our guide to this time of superstition and lynch-mobs, and is by turns witty and earnest, but always intent on hunting down a killer of innocent children. Trained in herbs by the monks from a young age and more confident after solving his first case, he’s a clever detective in an age when clues are hard to come by. There are fascinating bits of period detail – sugared violets as an alternative to yet-to-be-invented sweets – and lots of unexpected twists keep the reader engaged. And Sykes, who studied on the Curtis Brown Creative Spring 2012 Novel-Writing Course (along with fellow published crime novelist Jake Woodhouse) certainly lives up to her billing as the ‘medieval Raymond Chandler’ in this page-turning offering.

The Butcher Bird by SD Sykes is published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 22 October, 2015. To pre-order a copy, please click here.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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