Nicola Upson

An Expert In Murder

"'... an extremely accomplished first novel...'"


It is the last week of the run of Josephine Tey’s play, Richard of Bordeaux, in London’s West End. To mark the celebrations of a marvellous run, Josephine travels to London from Scotland. On the train she meets a young woman called Elspeth Simmons who has seen the play many times and views Tey as a heroine of some sort. While down in London, Elspeth plans to see the play one last time that week with a secret admirer.

On arriving at Paddington, Tey, enchanted by the girl’s innocent quality, tells her to come backstage and offers to introduce Elspeth to the cast. Sadly, the next day Josephine hears of the girl’s murder on the very platform she had left her on. It seems Elspeth was murdered within minutes of Tey leaving her. Soon Tey finds that Elspeth’s sinister death has permutations that echo around the theatre where her own play is showing. What is the connection between this sweet Scottish girl and a play that is coming to a close?

Tey’s friend and admirer, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, is on the case and soon another murder that also strikes too close to home for Tey means that she becomes involved with a state of affairs going back many years to the Great War...

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Nicola Upson’s first novel of a planned series ingeniously includes the well known real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. It is always with some trepidation that a reader approaches a book that boasts having a real crime writer star between its covers, especially someone who is as revered as Tey – especially as she was a burgeoning talent who was cut down far too early in her career. However, you can tell from Upson’s delicate handling of Tey’s character that she has a great sense of respect for this writer. The one thing to be thankful for is the fact that Upson has wisely decided not to make Tey an amateur sleuth, leaving the actual detecting to Archie Penrose, with Tey finding out the personal facts of the people involved as they class her more a friend than a detective. Upson appears to have researched this period extensively and has been able to interview people who actually worked on the production of Richard of Bordeaux which lends the whole piece a sense of extraordinary authenticity. The era is evoked beautifully and like a good, classic P.D. James, the tale slowly smoulders along nicely until the final denouement. This is an extremely accomplished first novel and one that bodes well for the others if An Expert in Murder is the bench mark for the subsequent novels in the series. Definitely worth reading.

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