Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson

Title: An Expert in Murder
Author: Nicola Upson
ISBN: 9780061451553
Publisher: Harper, 2009
Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery, #1 Josephine Tey mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: 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.

No one could be more surprised than Josephine Tey that her play, Richard of Bordeaux, is the hit of the 1934 theatre season in London. She boards the train from Inverness to London to attend the play's final week and strikes up a conversation with a very personable young girl in the same compartment. To Josephine's shock, the young girl is murdered shortly after the train reaches London.

A friend of Josephine's, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, is convinced that the murder is connected to the play, and that Josephine herself is in danger. When a second murder occurs, the policeman and the playwright find themselves working together to catch a killer.

Author Nicola Upson has done a marvelous job of blending fact and fiction in the character of Josephine Tey. (I don't read many "classic" or "golden age" mysteries, but even I know about Josephine Tey and her wonderful books. She is a very under-appreciated writer.) Upson's historical detail isn't at all overwhelming, and sets just the right tone in transporting a reader into the 1930s.

I had managed to identify the killer and a cohort, but I did not deduce the Why of it all because I was enjoying the characters, the setting, and the twists and turns of the plot so much. I look forward to reading the other books in the series, and would recommend them to anyone who has enjoyed reading Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, the Bess Crawford series written by Charles Todd, or the books of Suzanne Arruda.


  1. Cathy - Thanks for this review. I'm so glad you liked this. It's hard to evoke an author's personality and create a believable fictional character, but I agree with you; Upson does it well.

  2. I really like the Maisie Dobbs series so I think I'll give this one a try as well.

  3. You recommend more good books than I can keep up with! I've put this one on my list. Thanks.

  4. Hmm. Maybe someday I'll give it another go. This was a DNF for me. Tried to read it in the dead of summer with no air conditioning while my broken ankle healed, and it just didn't grab me.

  5. Gosh, it looks like the same artist did the cover for the Tey look that does the Maisie Dobbs ones.

    I think I have to work on finishing that series before I start this

  6. I'll have to tell my mother about this author - she loves the Maisie Dobbs books.

  7. Margot-- I know that it's something I would never even attempt to do!

    Barbara-- Good!

    Joe-- You're very welcome!

    Pepper-- Yuck! Under those circumstances, I might be hard-pressed to find ANY book that I liked!

    Caite-- I was thinking the same thing. I also think the same artist does the covers for Suzanne Arruda.

    Kathy-- I think she'll enjoy this one!

  8. I really enjoyed this one too. I love a book that gives you a sense of time and place and she really did a good job. I've never been very interested in the theater, but this made me quite curious. I have her second book on hand--just need a moment to squeeze it in! Not sure if you've read any of Tey's books? But they are great, too!

  9. Danielle-- Oh yes, I've read Josephine Tey. She was a marvelous writer!

  10. I read & enjoyed this also, Cathy - and reviewed it here

    Upson inspired me to start to read Tey's work and I reviewed The Man in the Queue as well (But one sort-of-self-promoting link is enough per comment).

    Thanks for making the connection between Upson's work and the Maisie Dobbs & Bess Crawford series. Both of those are favourites of mine, and fans of either will definitely enjoy An Expert in Murder.

  11. Debbie-- I think it was your review of The Man in the Queue that led me to tracking down more Tey to read.

    Thanks for your thumbs up on my Dobbs and Crawford recommendations. I know we both enjoy being reading enablers. :)


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