Review Of 'Dear Little Corpses' - Nicola Upson
The book opens with the burial of some dolls. It's an unusual opening, but it sets the tone for the book. I absolutely loved the story, but I felt unsettled the whole time I was reading it. There's something about Polstead and its inhabitants that never feels quite right - justifiably so, as it turns out.
I think part of the reason I enjoyed the book so much was that its set in countryside I'm familiar with. I live almost on the Sufolk-Essex border and many of the places mentioned are ones I've been to.
I don't know much about Josephine Tey beyond the fact she wrote the book of one of my favourite films 'The Franchise Affair' and although reading this has made me want to find out more about her, at the same time I almost don't want to. Upson's version is so vibrant that I can't help feeling the real thing might be a bit of a let-down.
The story itself is an intriguing one, a girl is missing and the plot centres around the search for her. However, the climax, when it finally comes is wholly unexpected and utterly shocking. By the time I got to the end, my tissue was firmly clenched in my fist and my heart broke for so many of the characters. I've read one other book in this series, a long time ago, and although there were some elements (such as the relationship between Josephine and Marta) where I felt I was missing some of the detail, this in no way detracts from the book and I never felt as though I'd missed out by not having read the earlier books. That said, they have now gone onto my 'TBR' list as this reminded me how much I'd enjoyed the previous one. They feel like they should be cosy crime, but there's nothing cosy about this story. It's dark and awful, but utterly brilliant at the same time. In setting the scene, Upson perfectly captures the charm and sense of community that comes with living in a quiet rural village. However, juxtaposed against this is the underlying threat that comes with it - families who have lived cheek by jowl for years know all each other's secrets and there is the ever present danger that one will be revealed. It is an atmosphere I recognise and it lends a touch of claustrophobia to an otherwise bucolic setting.
The plotting is intricate and clever and everything that is revealed makes perfect sense, even as you shake your head and wonder why you hadn't worked it out before. The characters themselves come to life and I found myself reading quicker and quicker as I went along, willing them towards some kind of resolution. Last month I struggled with motivation to read, but this book has galvanised me again to pick up the next one, if only so that I can get through them quicker, in order to be able to read more of Upson's books!
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review the book.