In this atmospheric, intriguing historical mystery brimming with psychological tension, an unexpected inheritance plunges beloved British mystery author Josephine Tey into a disturbing puzzle of dark secrets eerily connecting the present and the past.
When Josephine Tey unexpectedly inherits Red Barn Cottage from her estranged godmother, the will stipulates that she must personally claim the house in the Suffolk countryside. But Josephine is not the only benefactor—a woman named Lucy Kyte is also in Hester’s will.
Sorting through the artifacts of her godmother’s life, Josephine is intrigued by an infamous death committed on the cottage’s grounds a century before. Yet this old crime—dubbed the Red Barn murder—still seems to haunt the tight-knit village and its remote inhabitants. Is it just superstition, or is there a very real threat that is frightening the locals? Could the truth be related to the mysterious Lucy Kyte, who no one in the village admits to knowing?
With a palpable sense of evil thickening around her, Josephine must untangle historic tragedy from present danger and prevent a deadly cycle from beginning once more.
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.