Within a relatively short period, Nicola Upson has established herself as one of the most inventive and unusual of crime writers, marrying a sure storytelling grip to a non-pareil skill at evoking both period atmosphere and English locales. However – as Angel with Two Faces
comprehensively demonstrates -- her real coup lies in her canny utilisation of a classic English writer, Josephine Tey (of The Franchise Affair
and The Daughter of Time
fame) as the protagonist of her books. And, what’s more, doing full justice to her much-loved predecessor's memory; it’s easy to feel that Tey herself would be delighted with these fictitious imaginings of her life an investigative figure.
The first book in the series, An Expert in Murder, was acclaimed by no less a figure in the field than PD James (admittedly, a stablemate at the same publisher), and this second outing maintains the quality of the first. Set against a strongly realised Cornish landscape, Upson begins her tale with death of a young man in the Loe Pool while on a riding excursion. Archie Penrose, a policeman whose family are the custodians of the estate, looks at the death askance – particularly when another young man goes missing, and a village prelate falls to his death from a nearby cliff. Josephine Tey, a friend of Archie Penrose, finds her wish for a quiet holiday banished when she becomes involved in a grim and baffling mystery.
The interaction between the duo here is delightfully handled, and the metaphor they adopt – death as an angel with two faces looking at both past and present -- is as allusive and strange as the narrative itself. Let’s hope Nicola Upson has more plans for the imaginary amateur detective life of Josephine Tey. --Barry Forshaw
Chilling and clever. --Linda Fairstein
A new and assured talent. --P D James
An ingenious concept, beautifully realised. --Reginald Hill
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