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Upson, Nicola - 'An Expert in Murder'
Hardback: 352 pages (Mar. 2008) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571237703

AN EXPERT IN MURDER is the first in a projected series starring real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. Josephine's real name was Elizabeth Macintosh and she wrote her plays under a second pseudonym, Gordon Daviot. AN EXPERT IN MURDER revolves around Josephine's 1930s smash hit play Richard of Bordeaux which was to launch the career of Sir John Gielgud, who was both star and director.

Josephine is travelling to London from Scotland for the last week of the play and she is joined in her first-class carriage by Elspeth a young hat-maker who is to meet her boyfriend in London and is going to see Richard of Bordeaux, one last time. The two ladies spend an enjoyable trip and the reticent Josephine is charmed by her companion and asks that she look her up at the theatre the following day. Unfortunately that is an appointment never to be kept, as murder strikes Elspeth down at King's Cross Station.

The Scotland Yard Inspector in charge of the case is Archie Penrose, an old friend of Josephine's and a model for Inspector Grant in her crime novels and he worries that Josephine was the target as the murder scene contains memorabilia from Richard of Bordeaux.

The reader is then introduced to the (fictional) stars of the show, John Terry, Lydia Beaumont and the play's director and plunged into theatre life with a look at the behind the scenes antics and concerns of a theatre group.

Josephine is not an out and out investigator like Archie but she gathers information through conversations with the actors and their friends which she shares with Archie. The case ultimately isn't too difficult for him to solve as it just requires one witness to give him the information he needs. Prior to that I thought I knew who was behind the murders but in the end I was only fifty percent correct.

The motive is a bit mad to be frank and as pointed out above, it wasn't going to be too long before the police knew the truth, however the book is strong on atmosphere, and I love these showbizzy settings. It's also witty and Josephine and Archie make a complementary couple, close friends but with something keeping them from getting more intimate. The First World War hangs heavily over the whole book. I very much look forward to the next instalment and in the meantime I'll be reading up on Josephine Tey and catching up with the few crime novels of hers I haven't yet read.

Read another review of AN EXPERT IN MURDER.

Karen Meek, England
June 2008

Karen blogs at Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 19/08/2012 09:46