Alphabet in crime fiction: Nicola Upson

U The charming Nicola Upson is the author of two (so far) novels about an unusual detective – Josephine Tey. This dramatic device is doubly nested: Josephine Tey was the pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh, who, although she lived only to the age of 55, wrote several crime novels, including the acclaimed The Daughter of Time (rehabilitating Richard III), The Franchise Affair (in which a girl accuses two older ladies of abducting her) and Brat Farrar (is the handsome young man really the heir to a fortune?). MacKintosh had another pen name, Gordon Daviot, under which she wrote many plays and novels. A brief biography of this fascinating, talented woman, whose books and plays I have enjoyed,  can be found at Nicola Upson's website.  The second "nesting" comes in the fictional character of Tey as created by Upson: although not a detective as in the novels by her fictional counterpart, she is presented with murders to solve – and so Josephine Tey, writer of crime fiction, features in "her" own crime fiction.

Nicola Upson in her first book, An Expert in Murder (I quote from my Euro Crime review), "imagines Josephine Tey visiting London in the 1930s, both for a performance of Richard of Bordeaux and for a business meeting to plan a touring version of the play and the opening of her next effort, a life of Mary Queen of Scots. On the train from her home in Inverness, Josephine meets and befriends Elspeth, a young fan, whom she arranges to meet later in the week, after a performance. On arrival at King's Cross, Josephine goes to stay with the Motley sisters, real-life theatre designers but in AN EXPERT IN MURDER, also cousins of Josephine's long-term companion, police inspector Archie Penrose (said here to be the model for real-life Josephine Tey's fictional detective, Alan Grant). She soon discovers that Elspeth was cruelly murdered just after the train arrived at King's Cross." (read on here.)

The second novel in the series, which I have not read, is An Angel with Two Faces, set in Cornwall, where tragic events occur while Josephine is working on her second novel. The author gave a lovely reading from this novel at a recent book event at Waterstones, and from that extract, it sounds very good, and "Josephine Tey-like".

More about the author.

Karen Meek's Euro Crime review of An Expert in Murder.

Jane Jakerman reviews the same book at The Independent; Mark Lawson at The Guardian, and Joanna Hines, also at The Guardian.

Angel with two Faces reviewed by Jane Jakerman at The Independent.

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

One thought on “Alphabet in crime fiction: Nicola Upson

  1. Maxine – What a fabulous entry into the crime fiction alphabet meme!!! I’m especially glad you chose this one, because I like Josephine Tey’s work. It’s nice to see her “brought to life” in this way : ). Excellent choice : )

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