Thursday, June 21, 2012
An Expert in Murder
An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
#1 in Josephine Tey Series
While browsing the new releases at my library, I came across a couple of interesting looking mystery series and went looking for the first book. I know that you don't necessarily have to read the first book in a mystery series but if possible, I do like to start at the beginning. Luckily this first book was available.
Why did this one seem so interesting to me? Because its amateur detective is writer Josephine Tey, author of Daughter of Time, which I read and which has been very highly praised. I love the idea of using a famous mystery writer as a detective as the basis for a series (has anyone ever done this for Agatha Christie? I would *so* read that.) And I'm not very familiar with Tey's actual life so I knew everything would be new to me.
The setting for this book is March 1934 with Tey's hit play Richard of Bordeaux in its final week and her coming to London to honor that. But a horrific murder of a young girl who adores the play and who had traveled with Tey casts a pall over the proceedings. When a second murder, seemingly also related to the play, occurs, the stakes are raised to stop a ruthless and meticulous killer.
I did have some trouble getting in to the book as we jump around and spend time with several of the characters. I immediately liked Tey but wasn't necessarily as interested in the other characters. I'm also so used to first-person narratives in YA that third-person can be a transition for me. It took me some time but I did become immersed in the world.
Indeed, what a world! I love books with backstage drama and this one is full of it with conflicting egos and agendas and passions high. The closing of a hit play allows people to bring closure to their role but also sends them out to do something else that may not be as successful. But another theme comes from the war. Although over a decade has passed, the Great War still casts a pall over people's lives (which is not helped by the economic depression) and is something they may or may not have dealt with. This additionally complicates the plot and makes it harder to determine the murderer.
An exciting surprise for me was almost pinpointing the murderer and motive. I just had a suspicion about this character right from the beginning and I was right to assume that s/he was not what s/he pretended to be. Obviously I don't want to spoil who did it but I found it immensely gratifying as I am normally horrid at figuring such things out.
I wish I had read more Tey so I could compare this book to her work, to determine if it lives up to her standards. I don't feel confident enough to do that but I certainly enjoyed this book and recommend it to mystery fans.