SORRY FOR THE DEAD (Josephine Tey #8) by Nicola Upson | Blog Tour Review #SorryForTheDead

Published by Faber & Faber
Available in ebook, Hardback and Audiobook (7 November 2019)
347 pages
Source: Copy provided for review by publisher


In the summer of 1915, the violent death of a young girl brings grief and notoriety to Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs.

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.

Sorry for the Dead is the eighth book in the ‘Josephine Tey’ series, at once a compelling murder mystery and a moving exploration of love and grief


Having recently read, and very much enjoyed, the previous book in the series, Nine Lessons, I was delighted when Sophie from Faber & Faber invited me to take part in the blog tour for the latest release, Sorry for the Dead. My thanks to the publisher for the review copy provided and congratulations and happy publication day to Nicola. 🎉🍾

The story begins in 1948 with a very unsettling prologue and immediately my interest was piqued.  Who was this person, what was the connection with Josephine and why? We then go back 10 years earlier when Josephine is directing one of her own plays and a newspaper story appears over the death of a young girl at a college where Josephine was a teacher over 20 years previously which is now being treated as suspicious.  Although she isn’t directly accused, her name is included in the article, the implication being enough to give the gossips a field day.  Josephine feels that she has no option but to investigate further, especially when she realises that she has a connection to the dead girl’s sister, now an actress.  Further, Josephine is particularly unsettled when confronted by a face from the past which bring to the fore all kinds of unwelcome emotions. 

The main part of the story is set in 1915 and at Charleston Farmhouse, a horticultural college during WW1 where young girls are sent from Moira House, a nearby school to learn horticulture to help with the war effort, under the tutorship of the two women running the college, Harriet Barker and George Hartford-Wroe.  It is at Charleston that the death occurs, and sets in motion a whole set of circumstances which will have repercussions for years to come.

For newcomers to the series like me, it was helpful to have explained how Josephine first met Archie Penrose, (now a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard) and a character in previous stories. Archie and his friend Jack (who became Josephine’s fiancé) were stationed at a nearby army camp. Although they don’t have a leading role in this story, their inclusion does set some background history for Josephine.

Sorry for the Dead is as much about the characters and their complex relationships as it is about the mystery and the author perfectly articulates the difficulties and the emotional impact of having to be discreet about same sex relationships and keeping any relationships secret because of prejudice and attitudes of the time and even fear of violence. Once rumours start circulating and gaining momentum, lives and reputations can be ruined.  There were several events involving local neighbours and villagers which were really very sad to read but one in particular made me gasp in horror.

I really enjoyed this, and although at first I did find the introduction of so many characters at once a little confusing, I soon settled in to an intelligent and intriguing story that weaves its way seamlessly between timelines to a surprising and disturbing conclusion. The last thing I did was to go back and read the prologue again.

For fans of this series, (of which I now count myself), this will be another excellent addition to the collection.


Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works and the recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England. Her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels to feature Josephine Tey – one of the leading authors of Britain’s age of crime-writing. The book was dramatised by BBC Scotland for Woman’s Hour, and praised by PD James as marking ‘the arrival of a new and assured talent’.

Nicola lives with her partner in Cambridge and Cornwall, which was the setting for her second novel, Angel With Two Faces. The third book in the series, Two for Sorrow, was followed by Fear in the Sunlight and, most recently, The Death of Lucy Kyte. Taken together, they paint an atmospheric picture of England between the wars, contrasting the stark reality of life in the 1930s and 40s with the glamorous world of theatre and film and featuring a variety of real characters, from the Edwardian murderers, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Her research for the books has included many conversations with people who lived through the period and who knew Josephine Tey well, most notably Sir John Gielgud.

You can find out more about the author:
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Book buy links:
Faber & Faber | Amazon UK | Waterstones


2 thoughts on “SORRY FOR THE DEAD (Josephine Tey #8) by Nicola Upson | Blog Tour Review #SorryForTheDead”

  • Good review. I’ve read two of Josephine Tey’s own mysteries, but none “featuring” her as a fictional character. The fictional idea has been tried with Eleanor Roosevelt (via her son and his ghostwriter), the famed Mitford sisters and Daphne Dumaurier to name a few.

    • Thank you. I’ve never read JT’s own stories but this fictional series works very well, I have the Mitford sisters ones you refer to to read.

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