Nicola Upson has merged, quite cleverly, fiction with fact in her novel, An Expert in Murder (Josephine Tey Mysteries Book 1). Although Josephine Tey is a fictional character, readers are easily fooled by the “real” events that occur throughout the book.
There are a handful of aspects within the book that are expressly poignant as well as sad, but they could have garnered a stronger presence had the book been completely fictional. Upson’s use of her real life court room drama can be slightly offsetting due to the manufactured melodrama that has been factored in to it.
Tey journeys to London for a business meeting as well as a performance of Richard of Bordeaux. While in route via train, Tey meets and becomes friends with a young fan by the name of Elspeth. It is Elspeth’s brutal murder that centers the plot of the book. Tey is faced with the challenge of uncovering who had motive to take the life of such an unassuming soul. All of this is occurring as Tey has taken temporary residence with the Motley sisters, who happen to be the cousins of her long time male companion, police inspector Archie Penrose.
The books starts off quite well, but unfortunately it begins to lose its focus during the moments in which Tey is not involved. It is Josephine Tey that is the interesting character of the book. This noel is certain not comprised of an ensemble cast. The fact that we are not provided with any true background on poor Elspeth until after a second murder is committed is a bit disheartening as well as unnecessary.
Overall, Upson’s meshing of real and fiction is a divine concept, it does cause the reader to disconnect at times. The novel is still a decent read, especially with those that enjoy turn of the century murder mysteries.