Saturday, October 11, 2014


Nicola Upson’s The Death of Lucy Kyte is a strong, tragic story.

The book mixes history and fiction.

Upson bases The Death of Lucy Kyte on the 1827 red barn cottage murder in Suffolk, England. A century later, Josephine Tey learns the hidden details of the murder.

Tey’s godmother wills her the red barn cottage. That cottage has a violent history. William Corder, the son of a disintegrating upper class family, impregnates his lower-class lover, Maria Marten.

Maria had been a servant in the red barn cottage. Corder came from his larger estate to have trysts with Maria in the red barn near the cottage.

To cover his indiscretion, Corder murders Maria in the red barn.

Someone later burns the barn.

The terror of the one-hundred-year-old murder still haunts the property and the village.

Actors, including Josephine’s godmother and her husband, have become famous dramatizing the story.

Maria’s friend Lucy Kyte (a wholly fictional character) chronicles the original events. Her diary also tells her own tragic story.

Lucy’s ghost haunts the cottage. Josephine suspects her godmother's death may have been a murder too.

One climactic scene takes place on the night of King Edward’s abdication. Josephine Tey had previously seen King Edward and Wallis Simpson during a tryst at a resort.

Josephine Tey, the central character, is a fictional evocation of the well-known mystery writer of the same name.

So the book weaves history and fiction in an indescribably tragic way.

Few people in the story end up happy, though Josephine makes her peace with red barn cottage. She still has a strong relationship with her lover.

I found the story fascinating. I expect to read more of Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey Mysteries.

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