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The Butcher Bird by S. D. Sykes

The Butcher Bird

Historical Fiction   Crime / Mystery   Thriller / Suspense   
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November 2015 eBook of the Month.

A captivating and wonderfully evocative historical crime novel based in 1351, this is the second in the series, set after ‘Plague Land’. While it’s best to start at the beginning, ‘The Butcher Bird’ can actually be read as a standalone novel, as the background to the family structure is explained. At Somershill Manor, Oswald de Lacy attempts to solve the mysterious death of a baby, however he finds the situation running away from him. The historical notes at the end confirm this was a frightening time, with change coming hard on the heels of the Black Death. S. D. Sykes ensures that menace stalks through the pages, yet a weary and determined defiance makes itself felt. I believed the perilous nature of the times and flinched from the raw stink and the healing concoctions as I attempted to unravel this knotty, yet compelling mystery. ~ Liz Robinson

If you like S. D. Sykes you might also like to read books by V.M. Whitworth, Ellis Peters and C C Humphreys.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review Plague Land. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Beth - 'A compelling piece of historical fiction that takes the reader back to a different time. As a debut novel this is a fascinating read that I think fans of Karen Maitland will enjoy. I look forward to seeing what this author does next.'
  • Evelyn Barrett - 'With twists and turns aplenty, lies, family secrets, supernatural murders, a society in flux and one young man needing to grow up very quickly, Plague Land is a memorable book.'
  • Victoria Goldman –  'Plague Land kept me hooked from the first page. A very well-written historical crime novel, set just after The Black Death. Plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing.'
  • Jo-anne Atkinson –  'Entertaining story set in the post- Black Death 14th Century.  Murder stalks superstitious Kent, is it Demonic or is the answer more prosaic?'
  • Sarah Musk - 'An enjoyable whodunnit set in 14th century England.'
  • Marjorie Lacy - 'I have read a lot of books about this period in history. I think that this is one of the best.'
  • Karen McIntosh - 'The mystery unfolded slowly at first but the last third of the book was gripping and certainly kept me guessing all the way.'
  • Lynda DeFreitas - 'The novel has been well researched by the author, and the glossary explains all the medieval words found in the book.'
  • Rachel Aygin - 'The descriptions are so vivid you can imagine the smells, tastes and sounds of the period as well as the sights.'
  • Ann Alderton - 'A compelling page-turning murder mystery set in the vividly portrayed and meticulously researched post-plague era of 14th century rural England.'
  • Peter Baiden - 'Unfortunately, for this reader, Plague Land does not fully satisfy as a 'murder mystery', although it is well researched and well written.'
  • Christine Procter - 'Propelled into the post plague lands of the 14th century this is a harsh fiction of compelling poverty and strife that you'd expect and much more.'
  • Keith Currie - 'The author successfully avoids that pitfall while permitting a significant helping of humour among the blood, terror and death.'
  • Susan Mooney - 'From one of my favourite eras in History, S D Sykes is on a winner with this 10/10. Superb!'

Win Books from the Manon Bradshaw Thriller Series!

Persons Unknown, the second book in Susie Steiner's crime thriller series, is now out in paperback and to mark the publication we are giving away paperback copies of both Missing, Presumed and Persons Unknown to THREE lucky winners!

To have a chance of winning one of these fantastic prizes, click the button below. Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once.

The draw closes on 30 April 2018. The winners will be notified by 14 May 2018,

Good luck!

Enter prize draw Draw closes: 30/04/2018


The Butcher Bird by S. D. Sykes

Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more - something the King himself has forbidden. Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear. Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters. From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald's journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.


Praise for Plague Land:

'The medieval CJ Sansom' -- Jeffery Deaver

'There's a nice, cliche-free sharpness to Sykes writing ... that suggests a medieval Raymond Chandler at work, and there are no phony celebrations of the peasantry or earth-mothers thrusting herbal concoctions down grateful throats. Plenty of action and interesting characters, without intervention of the libertarian modern conscience that so often wrecks the medieval historical novel. Independent PLAGUE LAND is a fascinating historical crime novel about a world turned upside down, inhabited by a rich cast of characters. A terrific debut and a wonderful start to a brand-new series.' -- Antonia Hodgson, author of THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA

'Sykes has really reset the bar for medieval mysteries ... every clue brings with it unexpected twists and turns. When you think you know who the killer is, you're slapped with yet another surprise. Medievalists Sykes's debut provides everything a reader would want in a historical mystery: a gripping plot, vivid language, living and breathing characters, and an immersive depiction of the past.' Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

S. D. Sykes

SD Sykes lives in Kent with her family and various animals. She has done everything from professional dog-walking to co-founding her own successful business. She is a graduate from Manchester University and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She attended the novel writing course at literary agents Curtis Brown where she was inspired to finish her first novel. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding.

Author photo © Keeley Hoad Photography

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Book Info

Publication date

22nd October 2015


S. D. Sykes

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Hodder & Stoughton Ltd an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division




Historical Fiction
Crime / Mystery
Thriller / Suspense



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