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Angel with Two Faces (Josephine Tey, #2)
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Susan | 9315 comments Mod
This is the second in the Josephine Tey series, published in 2009.

Inspector Archie Penrose invites Josephine Tey down to his family home in Cornwall so she can recover from the traumatic events depicted in "An Expert in Murder". Josephine welcomes the opportunity, especially since Archie's home is near the famous Minack open-air theatre perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea. However, Josephine's hopes of experiencing a period of rest are dashed when her arrival coincides with the funeral of a young man from the village who had drowned when his horse inexplicitly leapt into the nearby lake. When another young man disappears and the village's curate falls from the cliffs of the Minack Theatre onto the rocks below, Josphine and Archie begin to suspect the involvement a cold-blooded murderer. As Josephine and Archie try to unravel the mystery, they begin to see death as an angel with two faces - one gazing at the violence in the present, the other looking back to the crimes hidden in the past.

Feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Roman Clodia | 722 comments I enjoyed this but have the feeling some will dislike it...

For me, Upton opens up the traditional 'golden age' novel which generally shies away from 'unpleasantness'. I found Nathaniel, for example, very moving - and could help comparing him with all the coy, camp figures of e.g. Marsh (from the few of hers I read).

I also like the relationship between Tey and Archie: a rare portrait of friendship between the genders with nothing romantic to compromise it now.

I think some reviewers have objected to Upton's use of Tey as a real person - but, of course, 'Josephine Tey' *wasn't* a real person, she was a construct created by Elizabeth Mackintosh, as was Gordon Daviot, both sort of alter egos that she moulded. So I find this aspect interesting rather than a flaw.

Looking forward to discussing this one!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8320 comments Mod
Whoops, just put this comment in the wrong thread - it doesn't really contain spoilers, but I meant to post it here! Apologies, I have deleted it from the non-spoiler thread.

Glad you enjoyed this, RC, but I must admit I didn't like this book much after the first few chapters, and thought the plot became totally unbelievable, the more it went on.

I wasn't necessarily looking for a cosy, but I thought there were far too many lurid secrets among a handful of people in one village, plus the fact that so many characters told Archie and Josephine their innermost secrets for no apparent reason.

My review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Roman Clodia | 722 comments Yes, I know what you mean about characters telling their deep, dark secrets at the first chance they get - I found that very irritating in An Unsuitable Job For A Woman.

I guess one of the differences for me is that Archie has known everyone since boyhood and is associated with the 'big house' while Cordelia Grey is a bland stranger. Only a limited number of people open up to Tey: Loveday because Tey treats her well without dismissing her as a child; Morwenna, I felt, precisely because she's an outsider - I felt she needed a break from the claustrophobic village and its inhabitants.

But, yes, an awful lot of sordid secrets in one small place - but isn't that one of the tropes of the genre? I did feel this is closer to contemporary crime like Broadchurch than true GA.


Pamela (bibliohound) | 320 comments I didn't enjoy this one much either. I found it very long-winded - one of the things I love about GA authors is their skill at creating a vivid picture with short, sharp sentences. Upson does write well, but is too verbose on the whole for me.

I also felt, like Judy, that there were too many sordid secrets for them all to have been hidden for so long. Archie must have been totally bewildered by it all. I agree with RC about Nathaniel, I found him very moving and the strongest character, the others left me pretty cold.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1814 comments I liked that Tey in this book was coming closer to Archie Penrose, but there was no slushy romance.
I can't help thinking that the Cornish people might not take too kindly to it, as it portrays a population of bullying, wife beating, and incestuous people. Having said that I did like it, although it is really very sad.


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
I am currently about halfway through this, but it is dragging somewhat. I just feel that Tey was thrown, too quickly, into this mystery. She was meant to be going to Archie's for a rest, after the recent events in the first book. Then she arrives on the day of the funeral and the curate has just been lobbed off the cliffs. We have domestic violence, incest and goodness knows what else going on. This isn't a bad book, but I think this series so far is just very dark and gloomy. It lacks anything uplifting, which GA authors usually inserted so skillfully.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Judy wrote: "Whoops, just put this comment in the wrong thread - it doesn't really contain spoilers, but I meant to post it here! Apologies, I have deleted it from the non-spoiler thread.

Glad you enjoyed this..."


This!


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Judy wrote: "Whoops, just put this comment in the wrong thread - it doesn't really contain spoilers, but I meant to post it here! Apologies, I have deleted it from the non-spoiler thread.

Glad you enjoyed this..."


I liked it more than you, but I agree, the secrets got to be a bit much.

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Jill wrote: "I liked that Tey in this book was coming closer to Archie Penrose, but there was no slushy romance.
I can't help thinking that the Cornish people might not take too kindly to it, as it portrays a ..."


Very true - Cornwall doesn’t come off very well, and it was very bleak, so much sadness, so many secrets.


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
I don't mind that it isn't the same as GA novels. However, Nicola Upson seems determined to get in all the unspoken crimes in novels of that period. I was reminded of how skillfully Ngaio Marsh managed to allude to marital rape; presumably so she wouldn't be censored, or attract publicity because of the scene. However, readers knew exactly what she spoke of. Or, even, going back further, how, in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a bedroom door was shut in a husband's face and, as they later wrote, bedroom doors slammed around Britain - and, presumably, later the world.

This novel, however, just seems so in-discrete. I find it hard to imagine that someone would, without really knowing her, inform Tey, however privately, such personal secrets about Archie's mother, for example.


Roman Clodia | 722 comments Yes, I agree that the sheer number of hidden secrets gets overwhelming: two incestuous relationships, even if one is consensual and the other not, is a bit hard to accept on one estate. The one that tipped over into the ridiculously unnecessary for me was Jasper's horrible exploitation of the battered wife...

I'm up to date with this series and would say that each one is quite different in terms of subject matter, and that Upson gets more accomplished as she goes in shaping her books.


message 13: by Susan in NC (last edited Apr 13, 2019 07:36AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Susan wrote: "I don't mind that it isn't the same as GA novels. However, Nicola Upson seems determined to get in all the unspoken crimes in novels of that period. I was reminded of how skillfully Ngaio Marsh man..."

True - reading GA novels back-to-back with a novel set in the 1930s but written recently, but both dealing with such private matters, it is fascinating to see the difference in handling. That’s why I thought I knew what happened in Vulcan about the marital rape, but I wasn’t sure - it was subtle and just left the reader with a vague sinking feeling....I had forgotten though - back then, censors wouldn’t allow such things, they simply weren’t talked about (which, of course, just increased the horrible, controlling feelings of shame on the victim.)

Thanks for pointing out the difference. It does seem hard to believe in a rural, closed community in the 30s (in England or anywhere), people would openly discuss such things.


message 14: by Susan in NC (last edited Apr 13, 2019 07:41AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Yes, I agree that the sheer number of hidden secrets gets overwhelming: two incestuous relationships, even if one is consensual and the other not, is a bit hard to accept on one estate. The one tha..."

Thank you, good to know - that the books are worth continuing, and that I wasn’t the only one who though poor Beth was just too much to bear (I can’t believe she didn’t toss herself in the lake!) (view spoiler)


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Pamela wrote: "I didn't enjoy this one much either. I found it very long-winded - one of the things I love about GA authors is their skill at creating a vivid picture with short, sharp sentences. Upson does write..."

I agree about the GA style being shorter, sharper; I guess I’m glad I listened to the middle chunk of this on audiobook, moved along more quickly (with the help of the speed button through the slower bits).


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
I am about three quarters of the way in and this is a place that I can't imagine anyone would want to linger in. Goodness, does anyone live a normal life here?

Having read two of these, or nearly finished two, I can't say I am really enjoying them. It feels too contemporary to me, to be honest.


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8320 comments Mod
What did anyone think of the character of Loveday? I found her somewhat unbelievable - I suppose she was supposed to have some type of learning difficulty, but she just didn't ring true to me.


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
I agree. I am struggling somewhat with this one, to be honest.


Roman Clodia | 722 comments Judy wrote: "What did anyone think of the character of Loveday? I found her somewhat unbelievable - I suppose she was supposed to have some type of learning difficulty."

I thought that at first but actually she's very quick and bright, if unconventional - look at the way she powers through the book Tey gives her. So perhaps it's more that she's been deeply affected by her surpassingly weird family upbringing?

Tey has a precocious girl in one of her books - is it A Shilling for Candles which she starts writing here, so that Loveday is a prototype for a Tey fictional character?


message 20: by Susan in NC (last edited Apr 14, 2019 07:10AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Susan wrote: "I am about three quarters of the way in and this is a place that I can't imagine anyone would want to linger in. Goodness, does anyone live a normal life here?

Having read two of these, or nearly ..."


Thank you, I enjoyed it more as some fantastical place full of bizarre people- truly Cold Comfort Farm without the laughs! I though maybe as an American I was missing something, but if you all think there doesn’t appear to be one nice, normal person in town (or at least, none we meet), I don’t feel so bad...


message 21: by Susan in NC (last edited Apr 14, 2019 07:18AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Judy wrote: "What did anyone think of the character of Loveday? I found her somewhat unbelievable - I suppose she was supposed to have some type of learning difficulty, but she just didn't ring true to me."

I couldn’t figure that out - I have a very near relative who’s a young adult and just been diagnosed on the Autistic Spectrum, what would’ve formerly been called high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, and I wondered if she might be something like that.

Verbal, able to read and learn, but painfully honest, naive but an old soul type, not really manipulative and says what she thinks without a filter - but then Morwenna says she taunts her about “secrets” she shares with Harry - that’s the only behavior that didn’t fit. So she puzzled me - and had a sexual relationship with Christopher, so normal teen instincts there (although my hair still turns white at a baby at 14 - yikes!)

Whatever it is, at the beginning it’s implied men look at and notice her, that she’s attractive, so everyone seems pretty blasé about a pretty, biddable, rather “fey” young woman wandering about...


message 22: by Susan in NC (last edited Apr 14, 2019 07:31AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Susan wrote: "I am about three quarters of the way in and this is a place that I can't imagine anyone would want to linger in. Goodness, does anyone live a normal life here?

Having read two of these, or nearly ..."


True, I think the GA authors really wrote crisp, sharp prose, with an expectation that readers had a common knowledge base (as readers, even if not as educated), so they could make literary or Biblical or mythical references, expect them to be understood, and move on.

With a more modern writer, they need to lay it all out there - “hey, in case you didn’t know, there was a common mythology that rural peasants were wife-beating, sister-chasing yokels, like Harry here”! They can’t be sure who is picking up their books, and if it’s someone on the other side of the world they can’t assume they’ll be in on the common knowledge of the time and place. (Like me asking our British group members in the Unsuitable Job thread if the Cambridge students seemed realistic as James wrote them - I was growing up in Chicago in 1972, and have no point of reference- except watching Monty Python on US public tv, and I doubt all UK college students were like the Pythons!)


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan Davis | 36 comments I'm sorry to say I gave up half way through. I had been so anxious to get this book.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 2324 comments Susan wrote: "I'm sorry to say I gave up half way through. I had been so anxious to get this book."

I wonder if I would’ve chucked it in if I didn’t have the audiobook set to 2.5 to keep the narrator humming along...


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
I have struggled through to the end, but I can't say I enjoyed the experience.


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8320 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I'm sorry to say I gave up half way through. I had been so anxious to get this book."

Sorry to hear that you and Susan the mod (a lot of Susans in this thread :) both didn't enjoy it, as I didn't either. It seems to be a book that divides opinion.


Susan | 9315 comments Mod
Good to have some Susan's about - we are rare these days :)


Roman Clodia | 722 comments Even though I did enjoy this (and the other books in the series), I kept thinking that it wouldn't be for everyone and expected some divergent opinions. That's ok, I've enjoyed seeing this through other's eyes.

It's interesting that some of the sticking points for both this and the PD James are similar: sense (or not) of period, over-sharing of confidential information.


message 29: by Susan (new)

Susan Davis | 36 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Even though I did enjoy this (and the other books in the series), I kept thinking that it wouldn't be for everyone and expected some divergent opinions. That's ok, I've enjoyed seeing this through ..."

Susan wrote: "Good to have some Susan's about - we are rare these days :)"

Susan wrote: "Good to have some Susan's about - we are rare these days :)"
I actually started readingthe Maisie Dobbs books and have been pleansantly surprised that I like them..I have not given up on "Josephine" just this book.


message 30: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1814 comments This book did put in mind of the soaps, where every possible "sin " was thrown in, over a small area.


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan Davis | 36 comments Good point.


Frances (francesab) | 340 comments I've recently finished this one and while I really enjoy the characters of Tey and Archie Penrose I did find the mystery quite over-the-top, not to mention the jarring sense of this being a golden age mystery with some decidedly modern misdeeds (at least in writing about them so clearly).

I'm also finding it a bit jarring in that I've recently read The Man in the Queue and The Singing Sands so occasionally get the characters and plots confused. On the other hand, it adds to the enjoyment of knowing the books she is speaking of writing.

Finally, I was recently in Cornwall and attended a play at the Minack Theatre (a wonderful and unique theatre-going experience) and visited the area in which the book is set so it was an extra treat to know the settings she is describing.


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