Thursday, 3 September 2015

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson

The first book in Nicola Upson’s mystery series featuring real-life author, Josephine Tey, throws the reader into the heady atmosphere of London’s theatre scene in the 1930’s. Josephine is quickly caught up in events when a young milliner is found murdered on a train. She is particularly upset as she shared a compartment with the victim, Elspeth Simmons, and was talking to her mere minutes before her death.

The crime scene has been artfully arranged by the killer and here police discover two commemorative dolls from Josephine’s play, a run-away hit at The New theatre. What’s more, Elspeth was visiting London to see the play with her boyfriend, a stage hand. You can only wonder if Josephine had been the intended victim. Josephine’s old friend, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, isn’t ruling anything out, but when another murder takes place, a variety of suspects and motives pop up.

There’s the director, John Terry, a character possibly modelled on a young John Gielgud, who has an awkward secret, while actor Lewis Fleming is hiding a personal tragedy and needs cash. A bitter stage manager and an absconding boyfriend are more contenders, while doubts about Elspeth’s parentage and a wartime mystery give the reader lots to mull over.

Upsom delivers a classic Agatha Christie style of whodunit here with plenty of red herrings and a fairly convoluted plot. I particularly enjoyed the theatrical world she has created – you forget that before TV, cinema and online streaming, theatre was huge. It is interesting to note that Tey also wrote crime fiction and her novel, The Daughter of Time was voted the greatest crime novel of all time by the Crime Writer’s Association in 1990.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: An Expert in Murder

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