Friday, June 13, 2014

Drinks with Reads: Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

Kerry Hammond reviews Nicola Upson's new book, The Death of Lucy Kyte.

Nicola Upson’s 5th book featuring writer and playwright, Josephine Tey, is the latest installment in a wonderful series. In this book, Josephine has just learned of the death of her godmother, actress Hester Larkspur, about whom she knew very little. She meets with the solicitor in charge of Hester’s will and learns that Hester has left her a cottage in Suffolk called Red Barn Cottage. Hester also asks that Josephine go through the things left there and decide what to keep. The last, and most intriguing bequest is to a woman named Lucy Kyte. The reason this is so intriguing is that no one seems to know anyone named Lucy Kyte.

Hester’s cottage is located near the site of the infamous murder of Maria Marten. Maria was a young girl who, for lack of a better way to put it, slept around. This is something that was extremely frowned upon in the early 1800s, and Maria had quite a reputation. She also had a child out of wedlock, and had gotten pregnant but lost others. One night Maria met William Corder in the barn, planning to go away with him to get married. She was never seen again. William initially told everyone she was staying with a relative of his and that the marriage had been delayed. The excuses continued to come when Maria didn’t return. About a year after the disappearance, Maria’s body was found buried in the barn on the Corder property. William went to trial and was hung for the murder.

Hester’s role as Maria Marten in the theatre didn’t end on stage. Her interest in Maria and her story bordered on obsession, and she owned many items related to the actual crime. She even purchased the cottage that was located very near to where the barn had been located, hence the name Red Barn Cottage. Josephine begins to go through Hester’s things and gets drawn into the Maria Marten story. She begins to realize that there was more to the story of Maria, as well as the story of Hester.

Upson’s author notes at the end of the book explain to the reader that the main story of Maria Marten is true. The author successfully weaves another dimension into these actual events and creates a fictional version of the time in which Maria was murdered. Much of the background is based on the real murder and the parts and characters she adds fit seamlessly into the story. I was amazed to learn what was fact and what was fiction, because it was very hard to tell the difference. Even though it wasn’t a murder mystery per se, since the Maria Marten part happened so long in the past, Upson creates another mystery that surrounds these historical events (two actually). These fictional mysteries are just as captivating as the actual murder. I was kept hanging until the very end when all was unraveled and revealed.

This is the third book I have read in this series and I absolutely loved it. The writing is wonderful and the characters so well drawn that I think of them the next day when I’m going about my business, as if I know them. I also love the incorporation of Josephine’s personal life into the story, her relationship with Marta and her obligations to her family. I had a hard time putting it down each night to get some sleep. I really enjoy the world of Josephine Tey that Upson has created and look forward to the next book in the series. Well done and highly recommended, both this book and the entire series.

The Drink: Cucumber Cocktail
Since Gin was big then, I've paired this with my favorite gin drink:

Cucumber Cocktail

2 oz gin
1/4 english cucumber
3 basil leafs
1/2 lime
1 oz simple syrup

In a cocktail shaker muddle cucumber, basil leaves, and lime together. Add 1 scoop of ice and gin, simple syrup and shake for 10 seconds. Strain cocktail over fresh ice in a cocktail glass and garnish with cucumber sliver.

You can see other drinks with reads posts here


  1. Thanks for a great review Kerry. I can't wait to try the book and the drink.

  2. Sounds great! I should start with the first book. Thanks Kerry.

  3. Rebecca I read them out of order and it wasn't a problem, but if possible always start with #1.

  4. I can't believe I've missed out on reading this series so far!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  5. This series sounds good, and how come I've never had this drink before? Yum.