An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson

An Expert in Murder cover

Recently I’ve been buying and reading quite a few books by Josephine Tey so when I saw that Jo at The Book Jotter was reading this book featuring Tey as a character I thought I would see what it was like.

There have been quite a few books published which have been written in the style of 1930s crime novels but I’m not sure if this one was meant to fall into that category.

It begins in a classic vintage crime way with a train journey, the quickest way to get that 1930s ambience. Tey who has had great success with a play in London’s west end is travelling from Scotland to London and falls into conversation with a young woman, Elspeth, who is a big fan of the theatre.

That’s as far as I’m going with the story because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I think it’s a good read if you’re into crime but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if Nicola Upson hadn’t woven the story around Tey’s life. For me it almosts seems like cheating when it’s a work of fiction which has sort of hi-jacked a real person and I’m not really keen on the idea. I can see why it would appeal to a publisher though as a sort of gimmick. I just didn’t think it was necessary.

I thought the twists and turns of the story were very good and that should have been enough. It reminded me a lot of Dorothy Sayers’s Strong Poison in parts especially her Harriet Vane, which is no bad thing I suppose.

Being a bit of a nit-picker there were a few things which annoyed me which other people probably wouldn’t have picked up on. One was a character’s use of the phrase, ‘Tell me about it,’ in that modern way which I don’t recall ever hearing anyone use before the 1980s. There was quite a bit of use of the F word, which really doesn’t bother me at all but it doesn’t fit in with vintage crime and it jarred with me for that reason. I know it would have been used in reality. Lastly, at one point Elspeth’s mother takes her large hat off and puts it on the floor!! It’s supposed to be the 1930s when women didn’t remove their hats at all unless they were sitting in their own home and they would definitely never put one on the floor. I told you I was nit-picking.

Library Loot (and mobile phones)

I had a phone call from my local library the other day letting me know that a book which I had requested was ready to be picked up so I strolled along there and had a look around to see if there was anything else worth taking out. It’s often quite slim pickings but this time as you will see I ended up borrowing quite a few.

1. The Brandons by Angela Thirkell (Joan Kyler mentioned this author and I thought I’d give her a go.) This is the one I requested.

2. A Matter of Trust by Robin Pilcher. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his mother Rosamunde’s now so I thought it would be interesting to see what he is like.

3. Still Midnight by Denise Mina. I’ve been meaning to read something by her for ages because she’s from Glasgow and sometimes appears on the Friday Newsnight review.

4. An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson. Jo at The Book Jotter is reading this author so I thought I’d give her a go.

5. News From Nowhere by William Morris. This one was on a prominent stand shouting ‘borrow me’. I knew that Morris wrote poetry but this is ‘Chapters from a Utopian Romance’ – could be interesting.

6. Secret Gardens (the Golden Age of Children’s Literature) by Humphrey Carpenter. He wrote the Mister Majeika books which were so popular when our sons were wee. I keep having to get this book out to check information, I think I’ll end up buying it.

So, as you can see, quite a haul. Now I just have to read them all.

Making my way to the crime section I had to go past a chap who was just beginning a call on his mobile/cell phone, a bit strange I thought because I assumed that people wouldn’t use them in the library. Silly me! I actually turned away from him and walked to another area because I didn’t want him to think I was listening in!

However he proceeded to yell into his phone whilst walking all around the library. The first thing he said was ‘Hello, it’s about consolidating a loan!!’ I was flabbergasted, he continued to answer all the personal questions that were obviously being put to him – the upshot of which is that and I everybody else within the library couldn’t help hearing it all. Name, address, employment details, personal numbers, how much debt he had – the lot.

Talk about being cavalier with your own security! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not a great one for speaking on the phone much and to me a mobile phone is for emergency use only. It’s beyond me why people use them for such inane conversations, like the people who block up the aisles in supermarkets while they phone someone to ask what sort of frozen peas they should buy. Birds Eye or Tesco’s own brand? they yell. Make a bloody decision, I scream. In my head.

For some reason a lot of people who have their phones clamped to their heads most of the time seem to think that nobody can hear what they’re saying and so they’re completely unaware that they are invading other peoples’ space.

I think it’s similar to people who think that nothing bad can happen to them because they have a camera in front of them, or they think that they can’t get in the way of people, like that idiot photographer who jumped in front of a marathon runner to get a photo of him and tripped the poor runner up.

Heigh-ho! I just felt the need to share that and have a bit of a rant. Now I’m off to get some reading done.