Dear Little Corpses
The residents of a Suffolk village are anxiously waiting to take in a bus load of evacuated children from London, but then when one of the children from the village goes missing, old animosities rise to the surface.
In Dear Little Corpses, Nicola Upson has created a thoroughly believable and engrossing pre-war world, where the countryside and city compliment and support each other. It’s 1939 and the decision has been taken to keep children safe by evacuating them from London to the country, and consequently the quiet village in Suffolk where the crime writer Josephine Tey lives is due to take in some of these children.
The villagers await the arrival of the youngsters and as anticipated, it is a muddle from the start. There are too many children, and extra places have to be found for them with reluctant residents. The worry of the looming war has seeped into everyone’s lives, and on top of the disruption and anxiety about providing homes for shocked children, the daughter of a villager goes missing on the day of the evacuees’ arrival – which also coincides with the annual fete.
Luckily, a visiting senior policeman is a friend of Josephine’s, and he is brought on board for the search, but as time passes with no result, he finds himself plunged into a maelstrom of long-held mistrust and suspicion. There are secrets hidden in the best of families, old animosities and the opportunity for revenge come to the surface, all of which makes the Inspector’s task harder as time drifts past with no news of the missing girl. The answers appear to be buried deeper than expected.
There can be little more emotionally agonising then waiting for news of a missing child and not being able to anything about it. The parents’ fear is almost primal. Upson combines the dread and terror of this with the uncertainty of the oncoming war. The twists in the plot are clever and the characters very real. Josephine Tey and her partner are a steady joy – even when separated by work. Marjory Allingham is introduced into the story and plays a welcome part in the drama, providing a chance to enjoy these two Golden Age crime writers. Although Upson tells us that it is unlikely that the two met in real life, she knows that they were fans of each other’s writing.
Dear Little Corpses is charming, revealing, engrossing and beautifully written, providing an excellent addition to Upson’s Josephine Tey series.
Reviewed 29 April 2023 by
Kerry Hood has worked in publishing for many years and lived
in London for just as many, but suspects her heart is in the country.