Review: The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

June 11, 2014 Bourbon Street Books, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review 2

  • Series: Josephine Tey Mysteries
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bourbon Street Books (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062195456
  • Source: Publisher

Josephine Tey, a well known British mystery author, learns she has inherited a cottage from a godmother she knew very little about. Her godmother, Hester Larkspur, was an actress and good friend to Josephine’s mother. Hester’s message to her goddaughter request that Josephine review her personal papers and decide herself “what stories should be told.”

Josephine’s inheritance doesn’t come without stipulations. First, she must travel to the Suffolk countryside to claim Red Barn Cottage herself. Additionally, another unknown woman, Lucy Kyte, has claim to anything within the cottage she desires. Josephine travels to Suffolk, her mind riddled with endless questions.  Upon her arrival, she learns the cottage has a dark and deadly past.  It was the site of the murder Maria Marten. Her killer was her lover, William Corder.  The murder was so notorious that it was frequently reenacted on the stage, her own godmother in the role of Maria Marten.

The inhabitants of the tighly-knit village offer very little answers, many denying they know anything about the mysterious Lucy Kyte.  It is only by reading Hester’s diary, a fictionalized account of Maria’s life, that Josephine finds out any information about her godmother and her close friend.

As she attempts to restore the cottage to a livable residence for herself and her lover, Josephine can’t help but feel a pervading and dark presence in the home. Instead of discounting it as being haunted as her lover is drawn to do, Josephine instead focuses on finding out answers as to how the living are responsible for the cottage’s dark past.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, The Death of Lucy Kyte is actually the fifth book in a series focusing on Josephine Tey, a true to life mystery writer. As I learned more about Tey herself, I found this novel to be more and more fascinating. I’m one that is drawn to fictionalized retellings of actual events and people, so I was quite intrigued about the character that Upson has created in Josephine.  The author has commented that she grew up in Suffolk, witness to the home that was the scene of this famous murder, her knowledge further adding to the lush and expansive detail that she uses to describe the setting to readers.

This isn’t one of those fast-paced and intense historical mysteries that readers can devour in a matter of hours.  Instead, it is one that is slowly revealed and eloquently detailed. Pages upon pages pass to describe the interior of the cottage, making it possible for the reader to visualize the setting with great detail. The reader’s patience to the slow pacing is wholeheartedly rewarded with a stunning and surprising conclusion.

While I wouldn’t readily recommend this book to someone new to the series (I actually did a tremendous amount of reading and sampling of the prior books in the series), I do believe readers interested in detailed, character driven literary fiction would be greatly rewarded. Recommended…with stipulations.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title.  Be sure to check out the other stops in this tour:

Tuesday, June 10th: 5 Minutes For Books

Friday, June 13th: Mystery Playground

Thursday, June 19th: BoundbyWords

Monday, June 23rd: The Written World

Tuesday, June 24th: Wordsmithonia

Thursday, June 26th: Dwell in Possibility

Monday, June 30th: Excellent Library

Tuesday, July 1st: My Bookshelf

Nicola Upson is the author of five Josephine Tey mysteries, including An Expert in Murder, Angel with Two Faces, Two for Sorrow, Fear in the Sunlight, and The Death of Lucy Kyte, as well as two works of nonfiction. She has worked in theater and as a freelance journalist. A recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England, she splits her time between Cambridge and Cornwall. Visit Nicola at her website,, and on Facebook.

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