Mystery writer Josephine Tey (The Daughter of Time) makes a convincing sleuth in British author Upson's debut, the launch of a new whodunit series. On a train journey from Scotland to London in 1934, Tey meets a fan, Elspeth Simmons, who's traveling to the capital to attend a performance of Tey's hit play about Richard II. When Simmons is found brutally murderedstabbed with a hatpin, posed with some dolls and partially shavedafter arrival at King's Cross, Tey's Scotland Yard friend, Insp. Archie Penrose, investigates and soon learns that the victim was adopted under irregular circumstances. After another death, the evidence suggests that both crimes are linked to a murder committed amid the devastating trench warfare of WWI. While the heroine falls conventionally into the killer's clutches before a solution many will anticipate, the engaging prose will leave even readers unfamiliar with Tey's fiction eagerly looking forward to the next in the series. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Some books just grab readers and never let go. Using classic mystery author Josephine Tey (The Daughter of Time; The Franchise Affair) as her detective protagonist, debut novelist Upson has written an original mystery as finely plotted as any of Tey's works. Set in 1934 London, when Tey was enjoying success as a playwright, the novel opens as she is traveling by train from Scotland to London for the final week of her hit play Richard of Bordeaux. But the murder of a young woman Tey meets on the train leads her into danger. Upson changed the names of the cast for her novel but interviewed the actual actors who performed (inclucing the late Sir John Gielgud), which gives her novel an authenticity that allows readers to wander through the streets of London and feel close to those who lived there. We can only hope that the next adventure of Miss Tey will be out soon. Fans of Tey, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and other writers of mystery's "Golden Age" (1919-39) will put this on their reserve lists. Highly recommended for all mystery collections.
Jo Ann Vicarel
A detective inspector and a real-life writer team up to solve several murders in 1930s London. Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to attend the closing-week celebration of her successful historical drama Richard of Bordeaux. Aboard the train, she befriends Elspeth Simmons, an enthusiastic young devotee of the play. When Elspeth is murdered in the train carriage at King's Cross Station while Tey chats with friends, the writer is drawn into the investigation. Scotland Yard DI Archie Penrose was the best friend of Tey's lover, who died in World War I. Now Penrose, who'll become the model for Tey's policeman hero Alan Grant, has fallen in love with Tey. A second murder strikes closer to home when Tey's mentor, theatrical manager Bernard Aubrey, is found poisoned in his office at the theater. The killings may well be related and the murderer may be among the people involved in the play. Elspeth's boyfriend, who works backstage, some of the leading actors, even members of Elspeth's adopted family, have possible motives, many grounded in the war's bitter past. Penrose and Tey must deal with their own complicated feelings about the war and each other as they mine the past for clues. The actual Josephine Tey, of course, wrote the historical gem The Daughter of Time (1951) and seven other classic murder mysteries. Though not up to Tey's standards, Upson's debut is a most promising valentine. Agent: Karolina Sutton/ICM
Los Angeles Times
“[A] blithely spirited debut. . . . Upson clearly knows her way around pre-World War II London and the grimy backstages of Covent Garden, and delivers an ending shot through with palpable surprise and emotion.”
“Nicola Upson has . . . given us a highly original and elegantly written novel.”
Read an Excerpt An Expert in Murder A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey
By Nicola Upson
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2008 Nicola Upson
All right reserved.
Had she been superstitious, Josephine Tey might have realised the odds were against her when she found that her train, the early- morning express from the Highlands, was running an hour and a half late. At six o'clock, when she walked down the steps to the south-bound platform, she expected to find the air of excitement which always accompanies the muddled loading of people and suitcases onto a departing train. Instead, she was met by a testament to the long wait ahead: the carriages were in darkness; the engine itself gravely silent; and a mountain of luggage built steadily along the cold, grey strand of platform. But like most people of her generation, who had lived through war and loss, Josephine had acquired a sense of perspective, and the train's mechanical failure foretold nothing more sinister to her than a tiresome wait in the station's buffet. In fact, although this was the day of the first murder, nothing would disturb her peace of mind until the following morning.
By the time she had drained three cups of bland coffee, the train appeared to be ready for its journey. She left the buffet's crowded warmth and prepared to board, stopping on the way to buy a copy of yesterday's Times and a bar of Fry's chocolate from the small news kiosk next to the platform. As she took her seat, she could not help but feel a rush of excitement in spite ofthe delay: in a matter of hours, she would be in London.
The ornate station clock declared that it was a quarter past eight when the train finally left the mouth of the station and moved slowly out into the countryside. Josephine settled back into her seat and allowed the gentle thrum of the wheels to soothe away any lingering frustrations of the morning. Removing her gloves and taking out a handkerchief, she cleared a small port-hole in the misted window and watched as the strengthening light took some of the tiredness from the cold March day. On the whole, winter had been kind. There had, thank God, been no repeat of the snow wreaths and roaring winds which had brought the Highland railway to a sudden standstill the year before, leaving her and many others stranded in waiting rooms overnight. Engines with snow ploughs attached had been sent to force a passage through, and she would never forget the sight of them charging the drifts at full speed, shooting huge blocks of snow forty feet into the air.
Shivering at the memory of it, she unfolded her newspaper and turned to the review pages, where she was surprised to find that the Crime Book Society's selection was 'a hair-raising yarn' called Mr Munt Carries On. They couldn't have read the book, she thought, since she had tried it herself and considered Mr Munt to have carried on for far too long to be worth seven and six of anybody's money. When she arrived at the theatre section, which she had purposely saved until last, she smiled to herself at the news that Richard of Bordeaux—her own play and now London's longest run—was about to enter its final week.
As the train moved south, effortlessly eating into four hundred miles or so of open fields and closed communities, she noticed that spring had come early to England—as quick to grace the gentle countryside as it had been to enhance the drama of the hills against a Highland sky. There was something very precious about the way that rail travel allowed you to see the landscape, she thought. It had an expansiveness about it that the close confinement of a motor car simply could not match and she had loved it since, as a young woman, she had spent her holidays travelling every inch of the single-track line that shadowed the turf from Inverness to Tain. Even now, more than twenty years later, she could never leave Scotland by train without remembering the summer of her seventeenth birthday, when she and her lover—in defiance of the terrible weather—had explored the Highlands by rail, taking a different route from Daviot Station every morning. When war broke out, a year later almost to the day, the world changed forever but—for her at least—that particular bond to a different age had stayed the same, and perhaps always would.
This link with the past was becoming harder to hold on to, though, as she found herself unexpectedly in the public eye. She had had thirteen months and four hundred and sixty performances to get used to being the author of the most popular play in London, but fame still tasted strange to her. Richard of Bordeaux had brought success, but success brought a relinquishing of privacy which, though necessary, was not easily or willingly given. Every time she journeyed south, she felt torn between the celebrity that awaited her in London and the ties which kept her in Inverness—and knew she was not truly comfortable with either. But during the miles in between, for a few precious hours, she could still remember how it had felt to be seventeen and sure of what you wanted.
Today, though, anonymity vanished even earlier than expected when a pleasant-looking young woman boarded the train at Berwick-upon-Tweed and slid back the door to Josephine's carriage. She struggled apologetically with her luggage, but a gentleman quickly stood to help her wrestle a large, beautifully embroidered travelling bag into the overhead luggage rack, and she smiled gratefully at him when he offered up his window seat. As the girl settled herself in, Josephine gazed at her in fascination, but it was not so much her features that drew attention as the remarkable hat that framed them—a cloche, made of fine black straw, which was accentuated on one side by a curled white ostrich feather, flecked with beige and brown and attached by a long, black-tipped hatpin. It was hardly the sort of thing that Josephine would ever wear herself, and it made her own plain velvet seem bland in comparison, but she admired its delicate beauty nonetheless.
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