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The Crack Magazine


Shot With Crimson by Nicola Upson

While Agatha Christie is the most famed of all Golden Age crime authors, Josephine Tey (1896-1952) can be credited with moving the genre away from clever parlour games and into more psychological arenas. Josephine Tey is also the main character in Nicola Upson’s well-received, 1930s-set mysteries that began in 2009 with ‘An Expert In Murder’. ‘Shot with Crimson’ is the 11th in the series and it’s a real humdinger. It’s 1939 and Josephine is setting sail for the US – on the Queen Mary no less – to meet up with her female partner Marta. Marta is part of the crew working on Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’. Meanwhile, back in the UK, Milton Hall – a grand pile in Cambridgeshire – has been commandeered by the army: the Second World War is soon to cast its shadow over Europe. A spanner in the army’s preparations however arrives in the shape of a dead body in the hall’s grounds. The link between what’s happening with Hitchcock in Hollywood, and the unfolding events in the UK, is provided by the hall: it was the inspiration for Manderley in du Maurier’s novel. Upson deftly juggles the different locations and timelines in this deeply humane novel that eschews buttered crumpets and garrottings – and other ‘cosy crime’ clichés – for a narrative that pushes character up front and centre. You don’t need to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one, but once you’ve finished it I suspect you’ll be keen to investigate the other ten. RM

Published by Faber