Two for Sorrow (Josephine Tey Series #3)by Nicola Upson
They were the most horrific crimes of a new century: the murders of newborn innocents for which two British women were hanged at Holloway Prison in1903. Decades later, mystery writer Josephine Tey has decided to write a novel based on Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, the notorious “Finchley baby farmers,” unaware that her research will entangle her in… See more details below
They were the most horrific crimes of a new century: the murders of newborn innocents for which two British women were hanged at Holloway Prison in1903. Decades later, mystery writer Josephine Tey has decided to write a novel based on Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, the notorious “Finchley baby farmers,” unaware that her research will entangle her in the desperate hunt for a modern-day killer.
A young seamstress—an ex-convict determined to reform—has been found brutally slain in the studio of Tey’s friends, the Motley sisters, amid preparations for a star-studded charity gala. Despite initial appearances, Inspector Archie Penrose is not convinced this murder is the result of a long-standing domestic feud—and a horrific accident involving a second young woman soon after supports his convictions. Now he and his friend Josephine must unmask a sadistic killer before more blood flows—as the repercussions of unthinkable crimes of the past reach out to destroy those left behind long after justice has been served.
Deep into her research regarding the lives of two executed baby killers, mystery writer Josephine Tey succumbs to a romantic crisis.
Staying at the women-only Cowdray Club in London, Josephine postpones contacting her sometime beau, Archie Penrose of the Yard, as she wonders who's left a gardenia for her at reception. By the time she finds out, Penrose has arrived at the club to deal with the horrific murder of former Holloway Prison inmate Marjorie Baker, who'd been working as a seamstress at the design atelier of Penrose's cousins Lettice and Ronnie. The girls had been stitching up costumes for the upcoming Cowdray fundraiser starring Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, a gala now in jeopardy. When an accident nearly claims the life of Lucy, a Cowdray servant and friend of Marjorie, Penrose zeroes in on secrets she and Marjorie may have shared involving Cowdray personnel—especially Celia Bannerman, a former warder at Holloway during the execution of Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, notorious baby killers, and Eleanor Vale, another incarcerated evildoer. Meanwhile, Josephine learns who her secret admirer is and wrestles with Sapphic yearnings. The night of the gala finds Noel and Gertie performing while Penrose sets a trap for Marjorie's killer, who has a major surprise in reserve.
Less a reconsideration of the plight of Victorian women and children via the story of Sach and Walters than a study of same-sex love and obsession focusing on Tey's relationships (Angel with Two Faces,2010, etc.).
Read an Excerpt
Two for SorrowA Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey
By Nicola Upson
Harper PaperbacksCopyright © 2011 Nicola Upson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJosephine Tey picked up an extravagantly wrapped hatbox
and used the perfect Selfridge bow to hook it on to the rest of
'Are you sure you wouldn't like me to have that delivered for
you, Madam?' the assistant asked anxiously, as if the hat's
independent departure from the shop were somehow a slur on
her standards. 'It's really no trouble.'
'Oh no, I'll be fine,' Josephine said, smiling guiltily at the
group of young girls behind the counter. 'Carrying this will
stop me going anywhere else today, and that's probably just as
well if I send many more packages round to my club, they'll
be charging me for an extra room.'
Balancing her recklessness as best she could, Josephine took
the escalator down to the ground floor. Its steady, sedate
progress gave her plenty of time to admire the vast, open plan
design of the store, a look which was still so different from
what most of London's shops had to offer. The whole building
seemed to sparkle with an innate understanding of the connection
between a woman's eye and her purse; even the prominent
bargain tables were neatly stacked with beautiful boxes
that gave no hint of their reduced price. December was still a
week away, but staff were already beginning to decorate the
aisles for the festive season and the familiar department store
smell plush carpets and fresh flowers had been replaced by
a warm scent of cinnamon which only the drench of perfume
from the soap and cosmetic departments could keep at bay. As
a ploy to make Christmas seem closer than it really was, it
seemed to have worked: even this late in the afternoon, the
shop was packed with people and Josephine had to fight her
way past the make-up counters to the main entrance and out
into the bustle of Oxford Street.
She turned left towards Oxford Circus, following the long
stretch of glass frontage to the corner of Duke Street. The shop
windows were full of wax models, each a variation on the
theme of Lot's wife, forever stilled in the midst of a gesture.
Some beckoned to the curious to step inside, others carried on
with their imaginary lives, oblivious to the flesh and blood
women who studied every detail, but all were arranged against
a background of light and colour which had been as carefully
designed as any stage set. Josephine paused by a particularly
striking bedroom scene. A ravishing wax figure, dressed in a
crêpe de Chine nightgown, stepped out of a nest of silken
sheets and pillows. Her pink foot rested lightly on the floor,
and she stretched a perfectly manicured hand over to her
bedside table, which held a morning paper, a novel The
Provincial Lady in America, Josephine noticed and a tea tray
with the finest bone china. Her dressing table a magnet for
feminine extravagance gleamed with crystal, gold-stoppered
bottles. It was a powerful image, but its message that a life of
comfort and intimacy was available to anyone who knew
where to shop was as painful for some as it was seductive to
others. There was a whole generation of women for whom this
would never be a reality, whose chances of happiness and
security, even companionship, had been snatched away by the
war, and no amount of satin could soften the blow of what
they had lost. Glancing at the spinsters on either side of her
she used the word half-heartedly, aware of her own hypocrisy
in treating them as a race apart Josephine knew that the
troubled look on their faces was about more than the lingerie's
ability to withstand the November cold.
The pavement was only just wide enough to accommodate
a double flow of pedestrians, and Josephine walked on slowly,
recognizing herself in the women from provincial towns who
seemed utterly engrossed in their business, determined not to
miss a thing. It was after five o'clock and, in the last hour, the
pinks and oranges of a winter sunset had quickly given way to
a sky the colour of blue-black ink. An unbroken line of street
lights stretched ahead of her like pearls on a string, drifting
into the distance and relieving the mile-long stretch of shops
ladies' mile, as it was known from the ordinariness of the
day. Some of the smaller branches had already closed, emptying
more workers out onto the streets, and a few shop girls
stopped to gaze wistfully into the windows of the larger stores,
a long day on their feet having strengthened their desire to
stand for once on the other side of the counter; most, though,
headed quickly for the underground or for bus queues which
grew longer by the second, muttering impatiently to themselves
and keen to make every second of freedom count before
the daily routine began again.
As impressive as its sequence of huge stores was, Oxford
Street was one of Josephine's least favourite parts of London,
something to be endured for the sake of a weakness for clothes
but never for longer than necessary. Gladly, she left its crowds
and its clatter behind and cut through into the more select
surroundings of Wigmore Street. There was something about
the anonymity of walking through London in the early evening
that never failed to delight her, a sense of freedom in the
knowledge that for as long as she chose no one in the world
knew where she was or how to contact her. She had traveled
down from Inverness ten days ago, but had so far managed to
keep her presence a secret from all but a few casual acquaintances
at her club. It couldn't last forever; there were several
engagements booked for the following week and she would
have to pick up the telephone soon and open a floodgate of
invitations, but she was in no hurry to socialize before she had
to. A world in which there were no timetables to be followed
or deadlines to be met, and where messages left were never for
her, suited Josephine perfectly. She was determined to enjoy it
for as long as possible.
Even so, the sort of undemanding companionship offered
by an afternoon of dedicated shopping was a relief after the
solitary morning she had spent in her room just her and a
typewriter and a series of shadowy figures from a past which
felt utterly alien to her. She was still not sure about the novel
she was working on, and wondered if her desire to write something
other than a detective story had been wise after all.
When her editor suggested a book with a historical slant, a
fictionalized account of a true crime seemed a good idea,
particularly one with which she had a personal connection,
but the claustrophobic horror of Holloway Gaol was starting
to depress her and she had only just begun. Summer both
the real summer she had spent in Cornwall and the imaginary
version which she had recently delivered to her publisher
seemed a long way away, and she found herself craving the
warmth of the sun on her back and the comforting presence of
Detective Inspector Alan Grant, hero of her first two mysteries.
These early stages of a book, when all the characters were
unfamiliar, were always the hardest to write. Getting to know
them felt like walking into a room full of strangers, something
from which her shyness made her recoil in horror; she would
be pleased to get further on with the story, even if the world
she was creating was unlikely to get any cheerier.
Across the street, the Times Book Club was still open and
she was amused to see that books never failed to bring out the
dormant shopper in a man. A lamp under the blind threw a
welcoming yellow glow on to the shelves, where faded covers
of popular novels and obscure political pamphlets were
brought together as randomly as the people who browsed
them. She considered going in, but decided that she was too
laden with shopping to manage the sort of rummaging that
books required, and pressed on instead to Cavendish Square.
Here, the streetlamps were more forgiving, their pools of light
interspersed with longer stretches of darkness, and there was a
restful elegance about the area. The Square had been more
fortunate than many of its London counterparts, where
residential buildings were asked to rub along with modern offices,
and it still consisted principally of beautifully proportioned
old houses. It was home time and, as she made her way round
to number 20, Josephine watched the lights coming on in the
upper stories, imagining doors opening and voices calling up
the stairs while life moved from the office to the sitting room.
The Cowdray Club occupied a particularly handsome
eighteenth-century town house on the corner of Cavendish
Square and Henrietta Street, at the heart of what was once the
most fashionable area of Georgian England. The house had
been bought from Lord Asquith the latest in a line of distinguished
owners and, in 1922, established as a social club for
nurses and professional women by Annie, Viscountess
Cowdray. Lady Cowdray whom Josephine had never met but
who had been, by all accounts, a formidable fundraiser and
loyal supporter had also paid for a new College of Nursing
headquarters to be built in Asquith's old garden; thanks to
some ingenious architectural thinking, the two buildings now
functioned happily together, one providing for a nurse's
working needs and the other for her rest and relaxation. Just
over half of the Cowdray Club's membership came from the
nursing profession. The rest were from all walks of life
lawyers, journalists, actresses and shop-girls, attracted by
stimulating conversation, comfortable surroundings and the
cheapest lunches in town and Josephine was pleased to call
it home whenever she wanted her time in London to be private
and free from obligations to friends. Since Lady Cowdray's
death a little over three years ago, the members had not lived
together quite as harmoniously as the buildings: nursing was
a political profession, and those left to run the club in its
founder's absence had different views on its priorities and
future. It was the same when any natural leader died or moved
on, she supposed, but things were bound to settle eventually;
in the meantime, she kept her head down and tried to avoid
Outside the main entrance, she balanced her parcels precariously
on one arm but the door flew open before she could
reach it, and a young woman one of the club's servants
rushed out, nearly knocking her to the ground.
'Am I missing the fire?' Josephine asked, a little more
sarcastically than she meant to.
'Crikey, Miss I'm so sorry,' the girl said, bending down to
pick up the boxes that had skidded across the pavement and
into the street. 'I wasn't looking where I was going.'
'Obviously,' Josephine said, but softened as she noticed how
upset the girl seemed. 'I don't suppose there's any harm done.
None of this is breakable.' She held out her hand to take the
last of the parcels. 'What's the rush, though? Is everything all
'Oh yes, Miss. It's just that I'm on my break and I don't get
long. I'm already late to meet someone.'
'Even so, surely you've got time to go back for your coat?'
She looked at the thin cotton dress and pinafore which all the
club's housemaids wore. 'It's November you'll catch your
death going out like that.'
'I'm all right, Miss, and I'd rather get off. To tell the truth,
I'm not supposed to use this entrance but it's so much quicker
than going out the side door and all the way round. That's why
I was in such a hurry Miss Timpson on reception was
showing someone through to the bar, so I nipped out the front
while she wasn't looking.' She glanced across to the Square,
then turned back to Josephine. 'I'd be ever so grateful if you
didn't say anything, Miss, and I'm fine honestly. I won't be
out here long.'
'All right, then . . . ?'
'All right, Lucy I won't hold you up any longer. But be
more careful next time.'
'Yes, Miss thank you.'
Josephine watched as Lucy hurried off towards the middle
of Cavendish Square, then turned and went inside, glad to be
out of the cold. The club's entrance hall was spacious and
uncluttered, the focal point being a long reception desk made
of diligently polished mahogany. A modest bronze tablet hung
to the right of the desk, set in an oak frame which contained
the Cowdray coat of arms and recorded the gratitude of the
first two thousand members to their founder; other than that,
the walls were free of decoration, and the eye of any visitor was
drawn instead to a number of beautifully furnished rooms
which opened straight off the foyer. Miss Timpson was back at
her post, and Josephine was treated to the full Cowdray Club
'Ah, Miss Tey,' she beamed from behind her desk.
'You've had a successful afternoon, I see. Can I get you your
'That would be lovely,' Josephine said, matching the sincerity
of the receptionist's smile and trying to think who the
woman reminded her of. 'And there are some more parcels on
their way, I'm afraid.'
'They're already here Robert has just taken the last of
them up to your room.' She cast a judgmental eye over the
parcels, lingering on the scuff marks where the boxes had hit
the ground. 'Would you like him to give you a hand with
those? I'm afraid the lift's out of order again.'
'No, no I'll manage,' Josephine said, knowing that she had
in Miss Timpson's eyes at least wasted quite enough of
Robert's time already that day. 'They're not heavy.'
'If you're sure.' She reached up to take the key off its hook,
and Josephine realized instantly that the resemblance she had
been racking her brains to place was with the mannequin in
the shop window: Miss Timpson shared that untouched-by-
the-cares-of-the-world quality, an air of casual perfection
which most women found insufferable, if only because they
aspired to it themselves and always fell so short of the mark.
'Just say if there's anything else you require.'
Excerpted from Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson Copyright © 2011 by Nicola Upson. Excerpted by permission of Harper Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I recently read Nicola Upson's first novel, An Expert In Murder, which I liked a lot. So I ordered her next two novels, Angel With Two Faces, and Two for Sorrow. I thought them both much darker, depressing and more graphically violent than her first work. I felt the violence was gratuitous, and detracted from the stories, I didn't finish Two For Sorrow, and ended up donating both of them to my local public library. If you want a really good mystery read, try the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.
Nicola Upson is a great storyteller. But I have to wonder if she has a lesbian agenda? I was enjoying the story yet getting more disgusted as the Marta/ Josephine line continued. I would have liked to have been warned that there was a lesbian theme!
A good story, keeps you guessing until the very end. Surprise ending for sure
They were the most horrific crimes of a new century: the murders of newborn innocents for which two British women were hanged at Holloway Prison in 1903. Decades later, mystery writer Josephine Tey has decided to write a novel based on Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, the notorious, "Finchley baby farmers," unaware that her research will entangle her in the desperate hunt for a modern-day killer. A young seamstress-an ex-convict determined to reform-has been found brutally slain in the studio of Tey's friends, the Motley sisters, amid preparations for a star-studded charity gala. Despite initial appearances, Inspector Archie Penrose is not convinced this murder is the result of a long-standing domestic feud - and a horrific accident involving a second young woman soon after supports his convictions. Now he and his friend Josephine must unmask a sadistic killer before more blood flows - as the repercussions of unthinkable crimes of the past reach out to destroy those left behind long after justice has been served. In the latest mystery by Nicola Upson, Two for Sorrow, takes the readers into two different story lines. One is the story that Josephine has been researching on the Finchley baby farmers that were hanged in 1903. Found guilty of offering pregnant women alternatives to keeping their babies, they were accused of killing those babies instead of finding viable adoptive parents who were willing to adopt or purchase unwanted babies. The reader takes a journey as Josephine begins to write her book based on a true life mystery based on the facts she gleans from meeting with people who were present at the time the women were hanged. Amelia Sach's believed she was innocent even as she went to the gallows. Now however in the midst of writing this book and researching more information on baby farming, a reformed woman prisoner from Holloway prison is found murdered. What connection does she have with the baby farmers and how far is the killer willing to go to make sure that justice is served in their minds.
This is the most recent of a series of books featuring the mystery writier, Josephine Tey, as a protagonist. Nocola Upson tries to weave elements of what we know about Tey's life, her books, and her life in the theater into new plot lines. The other one I read, "An Expert in Murder" was an OK read so I thought I would try another. This particular one involves a real-life situation where two women were hanged for what the English called "baby farming" - taking newborns, making the mothers believe they are being adopted and then killing them and keeping whatever monies have been paid to them. Upson takes the bones of this true story and has Tey reseaching it for a book, adds a "Miss Pym Disposes" incident and several cases of what I will call "mistaken" or "false" identity and makes a messy stew. I guessed the killer about half way through, but not her true identity. That was sprung on the reader out of the blue, at least it seemed so to me. There is also a messy personal subplot romantic quadrangle with four of the characters: Marta, Lydia, Tey and Archie Penrose. It matters not to me if, in real life, Tey was lesbian or bi-sexual, but this, like the main storyline, is messy and contrived. The one I feel sorry for is Archie who knows the fictional Tey's sexual confusion and need for privacy and solitude and is so very patient. I almost stopped reading three or four times, but got caught up is trying to see if I were correct about the killer's identity and wondering what plot twist Upson would thow at us next but I don't think I will read any more books in this series.
I was very disappointed in this book. The story was slow and plodding. In fact, I skimmed the last 75 pages just to find out "who did it". I will not buy another book by this author.
In the 1930s in London, mystery writer and playwright Josephine Tey is drafting her latest manuscript based on the 1903 state executions by hanging of two midwifes Amelia Sach and Annie Walters convicted of running a baby mill. Tey's former teacher Celia Bannerman was one of the two warders assigned to stay with Sach from the time of her conviction until her execution. Celia assists Tey on her research. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose investigates the brutal murder of a seamstress. His friend Tey, who he wants as his lover, believes her inquiry into the hangings three decades ago is related to the current homicide. Penrose fears an angry killer has just started and Tey and Bannerman are on the list for a de facto execution. The third Tey historical British mystery (see An Expert In Murder and Angel with Two Faces) is a taut psychological thriller with a great whodunit investigation. The excellent story line contains a book within a novel in which Nicola Upson smoothly moves back and forth while employing an insightful historiographical look from a 1930s perspective at 1903. With a late stunning twist enhancing the tale, fans will relish this engaging Depression Era thriller. Harriet Klausner