Friday, April 27, 2012

Fear in the Sunlight

Pages: 410
Date: 26/04/2012
Grade: 5+
Details: no. 4 Josephine Tey Mystery
            Received from BookGeeks

“Fear of the dark is natural, we all have it, but fear in the sunlight where it is so unexpected – that is interesting”
Alfred Hitchock

London 1954, and Chief Inspector Archie Penrose, about to retire from Scotland Yard, is visited by an American investigator who wants to know about events that took place in the summer of 1936 when Josephine Tey celebrated her 40th birthday in Portmeirion with Penrose and other close friends. Remembering is hard for Archie. Josephine has since died and having to look back means facing the pain of losing his close friend full on again. But the American has come with a surprising revelation about the events that took place during their stay there, and the curiosity that always made him such a good investigator takes Archie back to that shocking holiday in the beautiful surroundings in North Wales.

In 1936 celebrating her birthday with friends wasn’t Josephine’s only reason for staying in Portmeirion. She was also meeting Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma, to talk about selling the rights to her novel “A Shilling for Candles” to the already famous director.
During a dinner party Hitchcock decides to play a rather cruel game with his guests. A game that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of those involved as well as those witnessing it and a game which will have horrible consequences.
The next day the bodies of two women, a leading actress and a local girl working in the resort, are found. Both have been murdered in horrible, although different, ways. When shortly after the discovery a third person dies, it appears that the case may have already solved itself. However Archie can’t help having niggling doubts about the solution and also has strong reservations about the way in which the case has been, barely, investigated. But since this is neither his case nor his jurisdiction, there is nothing he can do about it.

It is only in 1954 with the arrival of the mysterious American investigator that all the threads of what exactly was going on in 1936 come together and Archie at last finds the answers to all the questions. Answers that will lead him back to Portmeirion and to him making a decision he didn’t think he would ever be able to make.

This is the fourth book in a series featuring Josephine Tey and it is, once again, a wonderful book.
Yes, it is a murder mystery, but it is so much more. In fact, we are almost 200 pages into the story when the first murder occurs.
This is first and foremost a book about Josephine Tey and her life. We see her struggle with the decision whether or not to sell the rights to her book. And we are witness to her dilemma when it comes to her love life.
This is also a story about the relationships between people and the tangled webs those create. About the ways in which people hurt and fail each other, hide parts of themselves as well as the lengths people will go to in order to protect someone they are close to, despite knowing better.

This author has a way with words. Her sentences flow, her conversations are natural and her descriptions are vivid. She takes her time describing surroundings, moods and thoughts and yet she maintains the suspense that keeps the reader turning the pages.

While Upson obviously likes and admires her main character, she doesn’t idolise her. Tey, as described in this book is a human and rounded character. She’s is mostly a very likeable person to read about, but she has her less beautiful sides and there are moments that the reader would like to shake her and tell her exactly what she should be doing. All of this makes her very real and leaves me willing to believe that the Josephine Tey described on this pages is as close to the real thing as anyone could come. In fact, there were times when I had to remind myself that I was reading a work of fiction featuring real historical figures. There is such detail in the descriptions in this story that it is quite possible to believe that all of it really happened.

The fact that the author has part of this book set after Josephine’s death worries me a bit. Does this mean Upson does not intend to write anymore books in this series? I certainly hope that is not the case.
On the other hand, the mystery in this book is set in 1936 when Tey still had years to live, which should leave room for several other instalments. Books that will be fictional while also giving the reader an inside into Josephine Tey’s life. Books that I very much look forward to reading.

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