It takes a village to bury a child.
1 September, 1939. As the mass evacuation takes place across Britain, thousands of children leave London for the countryside, but when a little girl vanishes without trace, the reality of separation becomes more desperate and more deadly for those who love her.
In the chaos and uncertainty of war, Josephine struggles with the prospect of change. As a cloud of suspicion falls across the small Suffolk village she has come to love, the conflict becomes personal, and events take a dark and sinister turn.
My thanks to Hannah of Faber & Faber for the tour invitation and for providing a copy to review. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review this latest release. It has become one of my favourite historical crime series (links to other reviews are listed below) and in my opinion, Dear Little Corpses is the best yet of the ones I’ve read.
Set in 1939, this story includes the period when Britain was on the cusp of war with Germany and parents were facing the heartbreaking decision to send their children away from London to the country they thought, to safety. (My father was one of such children evacuated from London to a farm in Suffolk, his experience was a good one and he enjoyed his farm life).
The whole evacuation process seemed a logistical nightmare. In the village of Polstead, Suffolk, where Josephine and Marta have a cottage, the vicar’s wife has the headache of trying to find additional accommodation when buses of far more children arrive than they were expecting, along with accompanying adults. It’s amongst this chaos that a child goes missing and the residents of Polstead have their lives and village thrown under an unwanted spotlight.
Stories involving missing children often make for emotional storylines but I thought this was the darkest and most poignant one I’ve read yet in this series. However there are lighter moments, often provided by the appearance of another crime writer, Margery Allingham living in Tolleshunt D’Arcy in neighbouring Essex. Margery was a fabulous addition, I loved seeing her interactions with Josephine and do hope she appears again in future stories.
It’s always a pleasure to see familiar characters such as Josephine’s partner Marta (again having to deal with the last minute demands of her employer, Alfred Hitchcock); there is even a returning character from a previous novel (which I believe was Nine Lessons) and DCI Archie Penrose of Scotland Yard is of course a central figure. There are strands of the story involving a London murder which he was investigating and he takes temporary charge of the Suffolk investigation in his usual calm and efficient manner. However this is a different Archie we meet now and the events in the story affect him deeply.
There is so much more to this story than initially appears and events do take time to unfold. The uncertainty of war before Chamberlain’s solemn declaration, with men being called up, mothers left alone facing the heartache of sending away their children and entrusting them to strangers adds to the sombre tone of a country bracing itself to face a situation they hoped would never happen again. In addition, there is a sinister undercurrent hiding behind the facade of an unremarkable English village where some people are desperate to keep their secrets.
Dear Little Corpses is an excellent addition to this addictive historical crime series. With vividly drawn characters and a plot that feels atmospheric and authentic it is absorbing and intriguing whilst showing the darker side of life and at times I was taken somewhere that I wasn’t expecting to be. Definitely recommended. For new readers, it is not necessary to have read any previous books to enjoy this one but if you’re anything like me, once you read one, you will want more!
I’ve been sent by the publisher a new paperback copy of the previous book (number 9) in the series, The Dead of Winter. As I’ve already read this (and have a lovely hardback edition to keep), I’m very happy to offer it as a giveaway. Even if you are new to this series, this could be enjoyed without prior knowledge and it is a cracking good read! Entry is below via Rafflecopter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicola Upson’s debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels whose main character is Josephine Tey, who – along with Agatha Christie – was one of the masters of Britain’s Golden Age of crime writing. She was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger in 2018 for Nine Lessons and longlisted in 2021 for The Dead of Winter.
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** GIVEAWAY **
The winner will be selected via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to entrants aged 18 or over in the UK.
Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties. After I have despatched the prize and receipt has been confirmed I will delete the data I hold. My Reading Corner is not responsible for delivery of the prize in the postal system. Good luck to anyone who enters the comp and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.a Rafflecopter giveaway