The Key in the Lock is a simmering Gothic mystery, full of secrets, deception and ghosts from the past.
The Key in the Lock
by Beth Underdown
I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.
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.
The Key in the Lock Review
As a big fan of historical fiction, I knew I wanted to read The Key in the Lock pretty sharpish when it came out! It felt right up my street and it really is a good Gothic mystery.
The story centres around Ivy Boscawen, who is mourning the death of her son Tim who was killed in the Great War. She is also harbouring a secret from her past that involves the devastating fire at Polneath where a young boy, William Tremain, was killed. The narrative switches between those two timelines as the past catches up with Ivy and she realises she will never get closure until the truth is uncovered.
This is a slow-burning book, with each page revealing a little bit more, slowly unfurling the truth. There are a lot of characters and a few twists and turns which keeps you on your toes. Many of the characters are not who they seem or at least have shadowy parts to themselves that they are hiding.
Whilst The Key in the Lock is historical fiction, I would also say that it’s a compassionate and tender story of grief. Ivy’s turmoil over losing her son is dealt with beautifully, as she comes to terms with his unexpected death along with the deterioration of her husband after the tragic news.
It reminded me of Mrs England by Stacey Halls – in terms of burning menace and atmosphere rather than plot – and I’ve also seen others say that there are nods to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve not read the latter but I think gives you a good idea of the atmospheric and immersive vibe of this book.
If you like historical fiction I would recommend making this one of your next picks.