Book Review: City of Masks by S. D. Sykes

Engaging historical mystery set in 14th century Venice

CityofMasksAbout the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): It’s 1358, and young Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is delayed in Venice as he awaits a pilgrim ship to the Holy Land. While the city is besieged by the King of Hungary, Oswald stays at the house of an English merchant, and soon comes under the spell of this decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the edge of Europe—where East meets West.

But Oswald has secrets. He is running away from something in England—a shadow that still haunts him, no matter how much he consoles himself with the delights of Venice. When he finds a dead man at the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that draws him deep into the intrigues of this paranoid, mysterious city.

From the dungeons of the Doge’s Palace to the convent-brothel of Santa Lucia, Oswald must search for a murderer in this bewildering maze of alleys and canals. When he comes up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everyone is watching (or trailing) someone else; and nobody in Venice is who they appear to be. Masks, it seems, are not only for the carnival…

Book Facts

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • No. of pages: 336
  • Publication date: 13th July 2017
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery

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My Review

This is the third book in S. D. Sykes’ Somershill Manor series. I felt it worked fine as a standalone book and I didn’t consider not having read the earlier books affected my enjoyment. If anything, it made me curious to read the previous books in the series.

In fact, the reader is given some insights into the past of our hero, Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, which may or may not be part of previous books.   In a very inventive way, the author gives us clues about the reason for Oswald’s tendency to lapse into periods of troubled melancholy.  However, most of the time, he is a sprightly hero with an eye for a beautiful lady, a love of wine and not averse to a spree at the gambling tables.

Alongside Oswald is a cast of colourful characters who may or may not be involved in the murder he sets out to investigate. You will probably suspect just about everyone before the true culprit is revealed.  My favourite character was Oswald’s domineering mother (who I suspect in reality would have been dead for many years, life expectancy then being much less). Fourteenth century Venice makes the ideal setting for a mystery with its narrow streets, spies, canals, political intrigue, masks and its situation as a melting pot of different nationalities on the pilgrimage trail to Jerusalem. There are plenty of twists and unexpected reveals that make City of Masks a thoroughly entertaining read for fans of historical mysteries.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Lively, engaging, mystery

Try something similar…The Venetian Contract by Marina Fiorato

SDSykesAbout the Author

S. D. (Sarah) Sykes lives in Kent, but grew up in Somerset and then South London. She is a graduate from Manchester University and was inspired to finish her first novel, Plague Land, after attending the novel writing course at literary agents, Curtis Brown. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding. She has a passion for medieval history, and her books in the Somershill Manor series, are set in 14th Century England.

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