The Death of Lucy Kyte

Written by Nicola Upson
Review by Judith Starkston

Upson’s 5th addition to her excellent Josephine Tey series has a deeper, more descriptive tone than earlier books and an unconventional mystery. In the opening scene, Josephine discovers she’s inherited the Suffolk cottage that belonged to her mother’s best friend, Hester Larkspur. The will’s odd details cue this is not a straightforward gift, but the burden grows heavy, taking on the sins of a famous local murder and questions about Hester’s final days. Upson explores Josephine’s guilt about her mother and father and the problematic but emotionally essential relationship with her lover, Marta. This is a character-rich novel, appealing to followers of this series rather than new readers. The gradual plot sustains, but it takes backseat to the atmospherics and moving exploration of love and friendship. The author’s note explains that Upson grew up in Suffolk and daily saw the home of the famous murdered girl. That explains the precision and sensory wealth of Upson’s portrayal of the countryside, cottage, village and its people. Occasionally a place acts as a character in a novel; Upson has accomplished that with her powerful evocation of rural Suffolk.