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An Expert in Murder

(Josephine Tey #1)

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  3,423 ratings  ·  520 reviews
A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre.

March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickl
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published 2008 by Faber & Faber
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3.48  · 
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 ·  3,423 ratings  ·  520 reviews

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Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is popular now to use real life characters in fictional situations. This novel takes mystery author, Josephine Tey, and puts her centre stage in a real life crime novel. Tey was a playwright, as well a mystery writer, and this book begins with Tey travelling to London for the final week of her successful play, “Richard of Bordeaux,” which is on at the New Theatre, St Martin’s Lane. The real play made John Gielgud a star and he features here as the fictional John Terry, alongside many other me ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
This was an okay read but I have to own to being a little disappointed. It sounded to be just what I enjoy most - an historical mystery, set in England with an interesting main character.

So, it started well, but after a while it seemed to get bogged down in too much description, too many words! Maybe even too many characters. I waded on, not really enjoying it but not disliking it either, and then towards the end it picked up the pace and galloped to a really good ending.

I am now a little bit i
Feb 13, 2012 added it
Shelves: 2012
Things that annoyed me about this book:

1. The ridiculous overuse of the word "lover".
2. The introduction of an enormous amount of characters with little or no purpose.
3. The main character (Josephine Tey) was extremely dull -- she didn't like being open or personal with anyone, including many if not all of her closest friends, though we are to feel sorry for her because she has suffered a horrible tragedy. Nor is she particularly friendly or kind, except of course when she inexplicably became
Bobby Underwood
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In both crimes there was a terrifying lack of humanity, a mockery of the dead which chilled him (Penrose) even more than the loss of life itself."

There is an old-style elegance to this richly atmospheric mystery set in the world of the theatre during the early 1930s. Mystery writer and playwright Josephine Tey is the central character in this story of a shocking murder aboard a train. The investigation slowly reveals a tangled web of events harking back to the Great War, the complexity of which
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
He suddenly had an image of his down-to-earth sergeant rushing home from the Yard every night to devour the latest thriller by his fireside. Better still, perhaps he was actually writing one of his own. The thought of Miss Dorothy L. Sayers turning out to be a portly, moustached officer of the law in his early fifties was priceless, and he made a mental note to mention it to Josephine when he saw her tomorrow night.

It appears I may have found that most rare of things: a literary tribute (a.k.a.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm generally suspicious of crime novels that take real people and plunk them down in a series of murders, but in this one, Upson has captured beautifully the era and the person of Josephine Tey. I look forward to more.
Feb 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
Parts of this book were fine. I loved the setting and the author's desciptions of London during the 1930's. Overall, though, I can't really recommend it. I grew weary of all the characters, who were "theater people" and were awful humans. I just didn't really care about them. The laborious intertwinings of all the disfunctional families were difficult to keep straight. I don't think I bothered to finish it.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the setting for this book, both the period - 1930s - and the place - the West End of London. The story centred in and around the New Theatre in St. Martin's Lane and I really enjoyed finding out more about that area and the descriptions are so accurate that you can literally trace the routes on a map and check out the landmarks and buildings.

For me, it was one of those books that I just didn't want to end and that was on my mind still several days after I'd finished it.
Book Concierge
In March 1934, Josephine Tey’s hit play Richard of Bordeaux is in its final week, so she takes the train into London for the festivities. On the train, she meets a lovely young woman who is a dedicated fan. But shortly after they arrive a shocking murder is committed, and it soon becomes apparent that Josephine is connected to the crime in ways she never imagined.

This is a very good historical mystery which features a real person. The story is fictional, but Upson includes some factual elements
Sep 29, 2011 rated it liked it
A friend dropped this book off for me because she knew I am a Josephine Tey (Elizabeth Macintosh) fan, as she is. We both love The Daughter of Time (which some think of as the best English mystery). She found this book which includes Tey as one of its characters, in London to see the last performances of her play, Richard of Bordeaux. A young woman, with whom she travels down from Inverness to London, is murdered soon after their arrival. Then begins the assortment of likely murderers, all surro ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical mystery lovers
Recommended to Ivonne by:
Author Nicola Upson has not recreated the novels of Josephine Tey (one of the pseudonyms used by Scottish novelist and playwright Elizabeth MacKintosh). But An Expert in Murder remains a pretty serviceable historical mystery, even if both Tey and love-interest, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, are a bit twee.

Despite that, the mystery at the heart of the novel is a gripping one. A girl traveling with Josephine Tey is murdered soon after the train arrives. Was she the intended victim? Or was T
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Tey, Ngaio Marsh, Charles Todd
Not only did I enjoy the writing style, I felt immediately fond of the heroine although I am still perplexed by the concept of writing a book about Josephine Tey, who isn't exactly a real person in that this was one of the pseudonyms used by Elizabeth Mackintosh.

I do recommend this highly. In some ways, it felt as if Tey could have written it and I was sad when it ended.
I suppose for a first book in a series, this book wasn’t all bad but...

Josephine Tey is a writer who, whilst on a train journey from her home in Inverness to London, meets a young girl who claims to be one of her biggest fans. Later, the young girl is murdered. Josephine’s friend, Archie, is the detective assigned to the case and he soon becomes worried that perhaps Josephine was the intended victim. This idea is not such a leap when someone involved with the theatre production of Josephine’s pl
Roman Clodia
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Set in 1934, Josephine Tey is on her way to London to the last week of her own award-winning West End play. But a young woman she meets on the train is murdered, and then the owner of the theatre where her play is being staged, and her friend Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that Tey herself is the ultimate victim...

The setting for Upson's book - 1930s theatreland - is immaculate and fully-realised, and her characters are rounded with voices of their own. Indeed, dialogue, especially that o
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
This had a promising start, but devolved into a POV salad, slipping here and there around a crime that became less interesting as time went on. As the author says, Josephine Tey was "bored by the trappings of theater life", and this book overall illustrates her frustrations, though obviously that wasn't the intent.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Extra Debut:
Murder mystery set in 1934. A playwright travels to London for the final week of her hit play and meets an ill-fated young fan. From April 2008.

Episode 2 0f 10
The clues to a murder lead Inspector Penrose to his old acquaintance Josephine Tey.

Episode 3 of 10
The investigation leads Penrose into the theatre world of London's West End.

Episode 4 of 10
Penrose waits for an opportunity to speak to impresario Bernard Aubrey, but tragedy is about to strike at the theatre.

Susan in Perthshire
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: detective, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment. When I spotted this book and noticed it was concerning the writer Jospehine Tey I thought it had great potential.

How wrong could I be? Starting reasonably well with a good atmosphere it degenerated into something that I was unable to follow and left me wondering what was happening and why.

Okay there was murder but I couldn't understand why, even at the end of the book, which did have some reasonable moments but overall was dull and uninteresting.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Expert in Murder is a quite a good book, but in many ways, it's a victim to its own complications. There's a great deal going on with it, so let me give a brief summary, get into some of its stumbling blocks, and then close with why you really should read it anyway.

Josephine Tey, a Scottish writer and playwright, is traveling by train to London in the 1930s for the final week that her play, Richard of Bordeaux, will be playing in the West End. While on the train, she meets Elspeth Simmons, a
Tell you what. Been definitely getting my murder mystery fix lately. I bought this on a whim. I needed an "X" book quickly. I couldn't find one anywhere, and then ended up in the bookshop at my work. I saw this. It was expensive (I hardly ever pay full Aussie retail for books. Why spend $30 on a new paperback when I can buy it online for $10 or less?) but I was borderline desperate. And I figured if I didn't like it, Mum probably would so it could be a present for her.

So I read it. It is set in
An Expert in Murder adequately entertained me during several long plane rides, but it wasn't interesting enough to compel me to continue on with the rest of the series. The main characters were rather boring but I liked the period detail as well as the intimate lowdown on the catty, cutthroat London theatre life. I guessed early on who the "bad guy" was but there was a good twist at the end which made it less disappointing. This book reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs series which I also deemed just ...more

Description: March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works.

Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connecte
This book takes as a protagonist the real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. Tey was also a playwright, and the book begins with her train journey from her home in Scotland to watch the closing performances in a long and successful run of her play Richard of Bordeaux . On the train she meets and befriends an enthusiastic young fan of the play, Elspeth Simmons, and offers to meet her at the stage door and show her round. However, Elspeth never makes it to the play - going back for a forgotten bag, ...more
John Frankham
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-detective
A 5* when I read this in 2013, my 2018 re-read downgrades it to a 4*.

Much to appreciate, but a rather self-conscious first detective novel, over-complicated, with a huge part of the detection coming from a voluntary statement by someone entering the story for that purpose. But, well- written, with an interesting theatre milieu.

The GR blurb:

'A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre.

March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Sc
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I loved the idea of a murder starring Josephine Tey as a character; so many meta layers, but the book itself was confusing and suffered from a plethora of POVs. Many of the sudden shifts could've been eliminated. The large cast left me struggling to follow what was going on and the motivation behind the deaths seemed implausible. The villain was just too awful to be credible.

I did enjoy the m/m, f/f element which was interesting to see in a book like this and I liked the depiction of London, but
Aug 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love this era and Upson does a great job evoking the time period as well as crafting a very smart mystery. The only thing I didn't like was that I really loved the first character to be murdered. She was so finely drawn in the short span of the book that she appeared in that I wanted to see her develop. Didn't get the chance.
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
Very much enjoyed this first of a series, and as I am late in finding them I have a few to catch up.
Diane Challenor
I liked the book but I'm "over" cozy British mysteries for the moment. I've read so many recently.
Mike Finn
"An Expert In Murder" is a well-written, rigorously-plotted, character-driven novel with a perfect period feel that I loved most for its empathy and compassion.

I'm a fan of Josephine Tay. I think "Brat Farrar" is exceptional. So, when I saw that someone had written a series of mysteries with Josephine Tay as the central character, I was intrigued and had to try one.

I think combining fictional characters and real characters in an historical setting is very challenging. It's in danger of becomin
Jo Chambers
This is the first in the series of classic crime novels featuring Josephine Tey, the real life crime writer. The author Nicola Upson was originally planning to write a biography of Tey, but there was so little information that she decided to give her her own fictional series instead!
This novel is set in London's Theatre Land in the 1930s, a colourful world which is beautifully described. The characters are wonderfully drawn, with Josephine a particularly warm, kind and intelligent character. Th
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Nicola Upson was born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works, and the recipient of an Escalator Award from Arts Council England. She lives with her partner and splits her time between Cambridge and Cornwall.

Nicola is currently writing the sixth book in the 'Jos

Other books in the series

Josephine Tey (7 books)
  • Angel with Two Faces (Josephine Tey, #2)
  • Two for Sorrow (Josephine Tey, #3)
  • Fear in the Sunlight (Josephine Tey, #4)
  • The Death of Lucy Kyte (Josephine Tey, #5)
  • London Rain (Josephine Tey #6)
  • Nine Lessons (Josephine Tey #7)