Book Review: An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson

An Expert in Murder
A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey
Nicola Upson
HarperCollins Publishers, 2008
ISBN 978-0-06-145153-9
Now also available in trade paperback

As many, perhaps most mystery aficionados know, Josephine Tey was one of author Elizabeth Mackintosh’s pseudonyms. In this tribute novel by Nicola Upson, the mystery pits Josephine Tey and her “friend”, Scotland Yard Detective Archie Penrose, against a killer whose motive for murder is well-hidden, in part by family secrets, in part by the passing of years. Set in the 1930s, but before WWII, the story revolves around Tey’s (or Mackintosh’s)  writing, as Gordon Daviot, of the hit play, Richard of Bordeaux. The book is rich with the atmosphere of pre-war London as well as the theater, the actors, and the writers and artists of the time.

It’s been a long time since I read the classic mysteries of that age, but as if memory serves me correctly, Upson could seamlessly take her place alongside Christie, Sayers, and yes, Tey. The writing is evocative, timely details as to matters of food, clothing, life in general are rife, putting the reader into the scene. We delve more deeply into motivation  and the angst of both good guys and criminals than in most of the more action-driven mysteries of today. Stream of consciousness allows us into the farthest corners of the character’s minds.

Need a good nostalgic read, exquisitely plotted and written? This may well be the book for you.

Reviewed by C.K. Crigger, September 2011.

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