I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unravelling from an upper window, and the terrace bathed in a hectic orange light . . . Now I see that the decision I made at Polneath was the only decision of my life. Everything marred in that one dark minute.
By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.
For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.
But once you open a door to the past, can you ever truly close it again?
From the award-winning author of The Witchfinder’s Sister comes a captivating story of burning secrets and buried shame, and of the loyalty and love that rises from the ashes.
Publisher: Viking Books/Penguin
Format: Ebook, Audio, Hardback (13 January 2022)
Source: Review copy
Beth Underdown last featured on my blog back in 2017 with my review of the very excellent The Witchfinder’s Sister. Since then I have been eagerly anticipating a new book and now it’s here! My thanks to Ellie of Viking for sending a proof copy and for the tour invitation.
Set over two timelines of 1888 and 1918, The Key in the Lock is a story of grief, deceit and secrets. Beginning in 1918 following the death of Ivy Boscawen’s son Tim in the trenches, the story goes back and forth to when nineteen year old Ivy Cardew was assisting her father, a doctor struggling with his own health when they were called to a burning Polneath House – a fire which resulted in the death of a young boy.
Thirty years may have passed but Ivy’s grief for Tim is mixed up with memories and dreams of young William Tremain, the boy who died. Actions were taken which had tragic repercussions and Ivy feels that she has to discover the truth to find some peace of mind.
Superbly researched and with great attention to detail, the story is so atmospheric and descriptive. It’s very much a slow release story, with complex and in some cases, violent family relationships. There are some characters that are not particularly likeable at all. In fact I wasn’t always too fond of Ivy if I’m honest. I thought her at times selfish, hankering for a life that she felt was denied her, rather than accepting the life she had. Not everyone is as they seem, more than one character has secrets of their own and there were times when I was just one step ahead of Ivy as she reconnected with the past. As the story moves forward, I understood the relevance of the book’s title and became engrossed in Ivy’s quest for the truth about the death of her son and her wish to fully understand the events of that night at Polneath and to finally be able to put those ghosts to rest.
A haunting story of loss, tragedy and betrayal, I loved the intrigue running through both timelines. Definitely one to be recommended for historical fiction fans.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Underdown lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her debut, The Witchfinder’s Sister, was an Richard & Judy bestseller. The Key in the Lock is her second book