Book Review – Sorry For The Dead by Nicola Upson

Advanced Review Copy (ARC)

  • Title: Sorry For The Dead
  • Author: Nicola Upson
  • Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Historical Mystery
  • Source:  NetGalley (link)
  • Publication Date: 7 November 2019
  • Publisher: Faber Faber
  • Format: ebook, approximately 300 pages ( 2 hours and 30 minutes read)

Series: Josephine Tey, Book #8

Summer, 1915.

As a devastating war rages abroad, a young woman falls to her death at Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs.

But was it an accident?

Years later, Josephine Tey returns to the same house – now much changed – and remembers the two women with whom she once lodged as a young teacher during the Great War. As past and present collide, with murders decades apart, Josephine is forced to face the possibility that the scandal which threatened to destroy those women’s lives hid a much darker secret

 This my first-time reading Nicola Upson and Sorry For The Dead is the eighth Josephine Tey book. Usually I’m not a fan of diving in at the end of a long series, however the synopsis sounded fascinating enough to risk not knowing the backstory. 

This historical mystery is set between the First World War and shortly after the Second World War. Which is a period of time that I am aware of but not in any great detail and certainly not from the perspective of women in the countryside helping the war effort during WWI and independent women in the arts post that period. 

 The plot centres around whether a death was an accident or actually in retrospect a murder and is cleverly done with the retelling moving through different time periods rather than chronologically, keeping the story moving at a nice pace.   Concurrently the relationships of those who featured in the past, and current in Josephine Tey’s present are delved into.

The mystery is explored by Josephine who is almost an inadvertent detective, tracking clues through conversations with past acquaintances and current friends. The characters,  male and particularly female are interesting, well fleshed out, with odd details that make them likeable or dislikeable individuals.

What I really enjoyed was the scenic background to the gentle murder investigation.  The detail provided in the historical context – setting the scene for London, Sussex and Essex during the retelling was engaging and poignant.  It made me want to go out and start visiting stately homes and seaside towns.

The reference to real individuals e.g. Alfred Hitchcock made me realise that I was reading faction (fictional story that incorporates real people and events).  Another thing I would have known had I started with book one, likewise had I researched the pseudonym Josephine Tey. Nevertheless, it was intriguing to have these references deftly woven into the story.

The number of sub plots, mysteries, fleeting references to characters in previous books made me occasionally consider if I hadn’t been paying attention.  At one point, I had to go back to the beginning to reconcile who I had already been introduced to. But that was a minor blip.

Overall, I enjoyed this trip through interconnected relationships to the vivid backdrop of England between the two world wars, the ramifications of love in all its guises and evidence that bigotry – overt or understated – is still harmful.   It is a nuanced rendition of cause and effect and particularly touching to read during this period around Remembrance Sunday.

 No one has a right to be loved…not by birth, or by any other act of chance.  Love has to be earned, just like trust…

Sorry For The Dead

My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber for an ARC of this book in exchange for a candid review.

3 stars

Engrossed Reader

Female, in her 40's who reads when she can, often to the detriment of sleep. Enjoying most genres and formats with a preference for ebooks, mainly for convenience

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