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on 20 April 2009
The title of this book says it all really 'The Sweet Smell of Decay,' is a very atmospheric book and it's certainly not for the faint hearted. It's full of the grimness, the putrid smells and sights that you associate with certain medieval novels by Paul Doherty.

This story is set in 1664 just after the restoration of the monarchy and a young womans body turns up mutilated and bound up to the pulpit of St Brides church. Harry Lytle is asked by a trusted advisor to the King to identify the killer, with the assistance of a rather sinister named character called the 'Butcher.'

Harry now enters a rather murky world where nothing is as it seems and where he can trust no one.
From corruption, to the slums of London and it's dungeons, to the aristocracy and the final solution, this book held my attention until the very end.

I really can't get across how atmospheric this book is and I really did enjoy it and I certainly didn't think it was a watered down version of Sansom's 'Shardlake,' in fact I couldn't find anything to compare the two authors style or characters.

There also a few good laughs albeit (gallows humour) still this is a very good first novel.

If your the type of person who doesn't mind taking a chance on an impulse buy, try this it's well worth the read.
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on 14 May 2009
I enjoyed this book from start to finish, plenty of action, gore, mystery, cracking characters and a great twist. There seems to be an extensive amount of historical fiction on sale at the moment, and believe me I read and buy a significant amount. This book stands out as a great example within this genre. More soon please!
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on 12 July 2010
The Sweet Smell of Decay, Paul Lawrence's first installment of the Harry Lytle Chronicles, opens in the year 1664, with Oliver Cromwell dead and Charles Stuart occupying the throne of England where feuds abound, religious temper seethes, and witch-hunting is heinous sport.

Accompanied by the pious butcher, Davy Dowling, Harry Lytle finds himself standing reluctantly in the vestry of St. Brides Church. Is this woman lying before him a cousin - or no? Harry hasn't a clue. Other than the cryptic letter from his father tucked safely in his pocket. Nor does the relationship in question even matter as he stands over Anne Giles' ravaged corpse. What had she done to deserve such a dastardly end to her young life? Her slight body bound to the pulpit, red hair splayed about her shoulders and breasts, eyes gouged from their sockets and a cord tied around her mouth with such force the killer broke her teeth.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? Clues Harry will seek, and clues he will find, for he and Dowling have been charged with solving this gruesome murder by a trusted advisor to the King himself!

Not that Harry Lytle goes about the countryside seeking to solve crimes of such vileness. He much rather fancies himself in one of London's fine taverns where he partakes to his heart's content of pipes and ale.

But he is Anne Giles relative, is he not?

Now, where shall he and Dowling begin their search? Perhaps with St. Brides' rector who speaks of witchery and missing keys? The old woman, Mary Bedford, selling meats in the village and perceived to practice the black arts? Or maybe young Anne's husband, the very cause of her estrangement from her family?

The trail of "What ifs" steer Harry and Dowling hastily to the dungeon-like cells of Newgate prison where a man named Richard Joyce is already held for Anne's murder, and within days, will be tried, hung, drawn and quartered if found guilty - and he will be found guilty. But Harry's gut says Joyce killed no woman. Alas, Harry's confounded gut screams Joyce's innocence!

From Westminster Hall to The Mermaid Tavern on Cheapside, from a dank cellar in Alsatia and concluding in a shocking courtroom trial with a most surprising outcome, Paul Lawrence invites readers to accompany Harry Lytle on a dangerous tromp through city and countryside where no one and nothing is as it seems. Time and again, while reading Lawrence's novel, I mused at how his historical mystery could be transported to modern times and easily hold its own.

The Sweet Smell of Decay (ISBN 9781905636426, Beautiful Books LTD) is followed by the sequel, A Plague of Sinners (ISBN 9781905636914, Beautiful Books LTD) . I'm pleased to report I've read both, and Paul Lawrence has me thoroughly hooked. If you like well-crafted, witty tales with endearing characters, revolting villains, clever twists and unpredicted turns, this series does not disappoint. I eagerly await the third installment. (Reviewed by Sharon Cupp Pennington, author of
Hoodoo Money & Mangroves and Monsters)
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on 16 December 2009
This just about scrapes three stars. The mystery is quite convoluted and I was slightly disappointed that it is not so much solved as explained by one of the characters at the end. Otherwise characterisation is adequate though perhaps not spectacular. The author manages to drum up some atmosphere and thankfully doesn't drown the book in acres of historical detail. While historical detail is important, sometimes authors like to wear their research on their sleeves.
A major pitfall is what appears to be poor type-setting by the printers, spelling mistakes, paragraphs repeated twice makes for occasionally awkward reading.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 August 2011
If this book came with a `scratch and sniff' option, I'd have to pass. It seems that 90% of the people the main character meets in his travels are either deformed, diseased, deranged or delinquent. I have no doubt that London in 1664 was an unpleasant place to be (unless you were in a very posh end of town) and this book certainly seeks to demonstrate that. So, no sanitised version of Restoration London to be found here!

But don't let the rather yicky descriptions put you off. The story itself tells of a rather feckless young man, Harry Lytle, who receives a letter from his father telling of the death of a cousin of Harrys (that he didn't know he had) and the request for Harry to investigate the death. From here, Harry tends to get himself into all sorts of trouble in the highways and byways around London while working with Davy Dowling, a butcher appointed by the Mayor to assist in the murder investigation.

I laughed out loud at several of the descriptions and the colloquialisms - I felt that the author had really captured what seemed a real essence of Restoration London - the narrator, Harry, seemed to have a touch of Samuel Pepys about him in his dealings with people, and his feelings about them. Several historical people appear in the novel, including Prynne, who Harry had been working for, and Shrewsbury.

The story moves well and the plot is well-paced; the action keeps going right to the last page and left me with a feeling of really looking forward to the next in this series. Highly recommended.
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on 26 April 2009
This book is one of the very few that i just had to read to the end in one hit,even though it was 4am before i did.It had everthing i'd hoped for, a great feeling for the period,even if it was sometimes too explicit,a facinating historical background covering the period, just after the re-instatement of charles the second;a complex and cleverly crafted plot and characters that caught the imagination, that will obviously develope in future books.All together a great read well done mr lawrence.I can't wait until your next book is released.
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on 30 December 2009
I was very interested by the setting of this novel and was impressed by the historical detail given, but initially I felt there were too many characters introduced who were largely undifferentiated. I hope that in future novels some of these will be running characters and therefore more readily recognisable. Towards the end I also began to wonder how any person could survive so many severe beatings on apparently consecutive days and still manage to move, let alone travel round trying to solve a mystery. This could be a promising, if flawed, start to an interesting series of novels.
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on 5 September 2009
Having enjoyed this period of history for many years, this book did not disappoint.

The author Mr Lawrence descibed the period of time very accurately. When reading this first book you feel like you are actually in London in 1664. It really did capture my imagination and you do get a general feeling of what it was like to live at the time.

I would recommend this book for anyone who does not have a faint heart and loves this period in History.

I am eagerly awaiting future books from this author.
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on 6 November 2014
This book is off the beaten track for me but I was persuaded by a good review from a friend on goodreads and I really enjoyed the tale. The sounds, smells, brutality and daily toil of life in the period were brilliantly written. I really felt as if I was there with Harry Lytle as he descended into the murky underbelly of old London.
The tale was disturbing from the outset with the disregard for life and competing religious and monarchist/ republican themes throughout keeping the reader on his toes as characters jump out of the page at you. A very good story and very enjoyable.
I did feel that Lytle bumbled along at times, but the author gave us a good enough insight into his character for us to see that he was, most of the time, learning on the job.
I'm reading another previously bought book at the moment but will be back for book 2 very soon. Well written Paul Lawrence.

Francis Mulhern author of Camillus dictator of Rome
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on 8 December 2014
Loved this book, Harry Little, a man after my own heart - called a spade spade, loves a drink with his mates, company of young ladies, BUT he obviously had a very weak stomach and at virtually every point he had to be sick, I did find that bit offputting and unnecessary - in all of the books I have read abouit this period, surely every main character was affected by the the awful smells eminating from the filthy streets, but poor old Harry is the only one so badly affected. This very minor point certainly did not detract from a fascinating and hugely enjoyable story. Enjoyed it so much I immediately bought bought the next in the series. Very worth while having a serious look if you,as I am, are into this period!
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