The Key in The Lock can be purchased from the True Crime Fiction shop here.
The Key in The Lock starts with a strong riff on du Maurier’s Rebecca, and in more ways than one dances with that classic Cornish mystery much loved by millions. Ivy Boscowen, coping with unresolved questions surrounding her only son’s death in the trenches of World War One, is thrown back to other questions surrounding the death of the son of the handsome local landowner, and the investigation around it, which she became involved in as an assistant to her doctor father.
Ivy weaves between her present and her past, and the life she has had in between these two incidents as she tries to make sense of what she experienced, and sometimes finds even with the wisdom of age she is sometimes much closer to naivety than she maybe comfortable with. Despite Ivy’s sheltered small and emotionally diluted life, she still is someone with whom one can sympathise. Struggling as she is to make sense of incidents where she was never seeing the full picture to begin with.
It is precisely Ivy’s faults and flaws which elevate The Key in the Lock. Underdown has written not only a captivating mystery, but in Ivy has created a wholly believable character who can speak at once to a life of relative privilege compared to those around her, but also a life which still has a poverty of education, experience and joy. Ivy, is very much a woman of her time, and as culture is currently obsessed with rewriting every historical woman as a “badass,” there is something refreshing in finding a woman who operates to actively find the answers she needs within her times restrictions rather than creating a fabulist narrative of the ease of societal change.
While perhaps not as exciting, the quiet and undramatic way Ivy uncovers a truth too long covered up, and with it her own flaws and inadequacies, feels like a powerful and authentic rendering. Ivy struggles to make sense of incidents where she was never given the full picture to begin with. Much as we might like the comfort of feeling that we are wise, all knowing, and exceptional judges of character, it is indeed part of the human condition to actually be foolish, and terribly blinkered to the reality of the situations we often find ourselves in. Ivy in experiencing these flaws in herself also helps us to move past bloated egoism, to a more humble place.