New Fiction: The Skull and the Nightingale – Michael Irwin

Here’s a sexy, smart, sinister summer read for fans of books like Perfume and An Instance of the Fingerpost. The plot involves a young man in 18th century England who is looking to make his place in society with the aid of a wealthy godfather. The godfather, who has led a quiet life, wants to vicariously take in some extremes of human experience. He enlists his godson to go out then write him of his adventures. Young Richard Fenwick is soon drawn into an increasingly dangerous life of hedonism and we come to see that he is a pawn in an elaborate game his godfather is constructing. The story turns dark—betrayal, danger and ruined lives face Richard unless he can think several steps ahead and find a way out of this Faustian bargain.

Author Irwin is a British historian. That he has spent his life immersed in the world of the 18th century is apparent in the visceral, you-are-there way he creates the sights, the smells and daily life of the period. Nice advance reviews already, with Entertainment Weekly reviewing at on sale and Redbook picking it for its Top 10 Beach Reads of 2013.

Amid Irwin’s spot-on descriptions of 18-century England’s squalor and splendor, the masquerades and dinner parties, this passion play mostly rests between the sheets where Lust lies. . . . Irwin’s secondary characters also fascinate . . . A tale of morals, intriguingly told.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Irwin’s] knowledge of 18th-century social customs, values, and hypocrisies is impressive.”
Publishers Weekly

This novel of manipulation and seduction evokes Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s classic Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The author brings James Gilbert to chilling life and vividly renders the darker side of the Age of Enlightenment. Readers who like their history served up with conquest and betrayal will enjoy this page-turner.”
Library Journal

“[A] provocative novel . . . This surprisingly dark story of twisted head-games and base instincts is, by turns, troubling and engrossing.”
Booklist

The Skull and the Nightingale (9780062202352) by Michael Irwin. $25.99 hardcover. 7/30/13 on sale.

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