The Skull and the Nightingale

In his debut novel, The Skull and the Nightingale, Michael Irwin tells the story of Richard Fenwick, a young man just returned to 18th-century London after a European tour. Or rather, he lets Richard tell his story, cobbling together a first-person narration and a collection of letters written to his godfather, a wealthy gentleman living in the English countryside.

Orphaned at a young age, Richard has long been under the care and protection of his godfather, and so thinks it perfectly reasonable to be offered employment by the gentleman following his education. When he learns his godfather means to put him up in London with a generous allowance and let him live out his days as he chooses, required only to write of his adventures, the employment seems to good to be true. Of course, the arrangement is too good to be true, and Richard finds himself caught in a trap of lies and manipulation, fighting to maintain his independence while still keeping his patron satisfied with his tales of danger and adventure--and lust.

Though slow to start, The Skull and the Nightingale hits its stride once Richard begins his records for his godfather. Richard's exploits turn rapidly to sex and manipulation, and so his story will not be for everyone, but for readers who wish to explore the sordid underbelly of 18th-century London, The Skull and the Nightingale will not disappoint. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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