Nicola Upson

Angel With Two Faces

""...builds up to a crescendo to leave you breathless." "


It is the summer of 1935. Author, Josephine Tey travels down to the Cornwall family home of her friend, Inspector Archie Penrose. Josephine feels she needs a long holiday and also start her second detective novel featuring her creation, Inspector Grant. The country estate is beautiful, but the atmosphere is tainted with the sudden death of a young worker on the estate, Harry Pinching. Leaving behind his sisters, Morwenna and Loveday the estate tries to pull itself together to get over the grief. But too many people have too many secrets they are trying to hide.

Some people believe that Harry's 'accident' was no such thing. And when another death occurs, this time without doubt a murder, roads start leading back to Harry's death. When Archie is put in charge of the case he finds himself at loggerheads with people he calls friends and even family. Now he feels he is an outsider, pitted against a wall of silence. Soon, secrets start tumbling out, some years old, some known to others, others withheld from the innocent. And at the centre is Morveth who seems to be the keeper of secrets… and possibly more.

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Nicola Upson brought out a great debut last year with the first in the Josephine Tey series, An Expert in Murder. It could have been very kitsch to have included a crime novel around someone who was a real figure. It has been done before without great results. However, with Upson's novel, Angel With Two Faces being the second the idea works surprisingly well. You can tell from Upson's writing that she is possibly slightly in love with her main subject: Josephine Tey, a woman about whom little is known is lovingly fleshed out by the author. She gives us the woman without putting her on a pedestal, a person who has faults like all of us. With the magical writing of Upson she echoes another Faber writer, P. D. James. As with James, Upson brings the Cornish countryside in to play, making the landscape as much of a character as the players within the drama. And this story is populated with memorable characters from Morveth who has made herself the Queen Bee of the whole village to Jasper Motley the most vile and corrupted man who ever sheltered in the house of God as a vicar. The plot delightfully twists and turns again echoing something that Tey herself would have been proud to have written. The climax builds up to a crescendo to leave you breathless. If Upson can continue with the momentum she has gained in her first two novels, then we can look forward to even greater novels to come.

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