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Expert in Murder, An: A Josephine Tey Mystery (Josephine Tey Mysteries) Paperback – June 16, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Mystery writer Josephine Tey (The Daughter of Time) makes a convincing sleuth in British author Upson's debut, the launch of a new whodunit series. On a train journey from Scotland to London in 1934, Tey meets a fan, Elspeth Simmons, who's traveling to the capital to attend a performance of Tey's hit play about Richard II. When Simmons is found brutally murdered—stabbed with a hatpin, posed with some dolls and partially shaved—after arrival at King's Cross, Tey's Scotland Yard friend, Insp. Archie Penrose, investigates and soon learns that the victim was adopted under irregular circumstances. After another death, the evidence suggests that both crimes are linked to a murder committed amid the devastating trench warfare of WWI. While the heroine falls conventionally into the killer's clutches before a solution many will anticipate, the engaging prose will leave even readers unfamiliar with Tey's fiction eagerly looking forward to the next in the series. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Josephine Tey moves from classic real-life crime writer and playwright to unwilling fictional sleuth in this atmosphere-laden cozy. Tey is journeying from her home in Inverness to London in 1934, to see the final week of her hit play. She befriends a young woman who enters her carriage; of course, the woman is a completely agog fan. Tey disembarks in London; the woman reenters the carriage and is promptly murdered. A disturbing feature of the murder is its staging: the victim is propped up to look in admiration at two dolls who seem to be representing one of Tey’s scenes. What may be disturbing to the reader is the forced link between Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, who finds the body, and Tey herself; they’re longtime friends, inevitably drawing Tey into the inside of the investigation. Fun for historical details and backstage bits, though the machinery of the mystery is too obvious. --Connie Fletcher --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Detective fiction bellyflops with a splash when it focuses too much on character as opposed to plot, because a mystery novel is all about plot almost by definition. Heyer, Bowen, and Peters manage to create really fun, mostly-believable characters within this context, which is quite a feat in itself, but the characters are not known for their depth. Carol O’Connell stands out for her tragically memorable Mallory, who hides from readers in the pages of novels outstanding for their masterful style and plots, but the Mallory novels are neither historical nor British. (To be clear, though, Mallory doesn’t die in the end—probably—that’s not why she’s tragic—so you should totally read that series.) Oliver Poztch creates extremely believable medieval worlds in his German detective stories, but his novels move too slowly due to their imbalanced focus on characters and setting. Upson, however, outdoes them all, and creates a work of fiction that lives. Possessed of that rare ability to show, rather than tell, that so many authors, even fairly good ones, fail to do really well, Upson weaves a powerful tale of mystery, violence, theatre, tragedy, and love. The reader is caught by surprise, finding herself actually caring about multiple characters and relationships, as she is swept along under the spell of Upson’s creativity. One cautionary note, for the gentlest of readers: Upson is slightly more vulgar than Christie. Very strong language appears in the book, but it appears at infrequent intervals. Homosexuality is depicted in a way that Christie never would have touched, but at least in this first novel, that lifestyle is not only more or less essential to the plot, but also delicately and minimally treated. Upson is at least 18k gold amidst the gold-plated offerings of her rivals. Highly recommended.
All that said, I was more than a little disappointed in this one. One problem was that the author has replaced some but not all of the historical participants--new cast, new theater owner, but the same playwright and costume designers, for instance. So I was never quite sure who constituted a legitimate potential victim or murderer. (Mind you, this would not have been true had I been better read on the history of the play, and the author does suggest sources.) I was not engaged in the story, which is a very subjective thing. More seriously, I understood critical parts of the puzzle 100 pages out. When you read a real Josephine Tey mystery, you see everything in the next to last chapter, and kick yourself for missing the clues, which is a much more satisfactory state of affairs.
My advice is to read every mystery Josephine Tey ever wrote. Read John Gielgud's memoirs. He was part of the real "Richard of Bordeaux" cast. Then, if you like, give this one a try.
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