Lyrical prose (“sheaves of corn stood abandoned, like the forgotten tents of a retreating army”) and subtle plotting make Upson’s fifth novel featuring real-life mystery writer Josephine Tey a worthy successor to Fear in the Sunlight, a PW Best Mystery of 2013. Tey, who’s struggling with writing a biography, is surprised to learn of a bequest from her godmother, actress Hester Larkspur (who was a close friend of Tey’s mother), as she herself barely knew the woman. Larkspur has left her a Red Barn Cottage in Suffolk located near the site of a notorious murder, and the will gives the writer the choice of sorting through its contents, including the actress’s papers, or having them all destroyed unseen. Tey decides to take a look at what she’s inherited, and, in the process, learns some unsettling details about the circumstances of her godmother’s death. In addition, the cottage may be haunted. Upson lays out the suspicious events gradually, but amply rewards her readers’ patience with a satisfying resolution that feels true to life rather than pat. Agent: Gráinne Fox, Fletcher & Co. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014 Release date: 06/01/2014 Genre: Fiction
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