I usually find books that take real individuals and make them the protagonist in a mystery series pretentious and ultimately boring...square peg, roun..Show More »d hole...but this...this was so good. The story was not overdone, nor were the characters (including Miss Tey) placed in unbelievable situations. The narration was excellent, not overly theatrical. I will definately be listening to more in the series.
I downloaded this book from Audible during one of their recent sales. I had no previous experience with either the author or the narrator. Davina Port..Show More »er does a good job. Her voice is a bit mature, but the historical inflections (Edwardian and 1930's) are quite good. It was a pleasure to listen to her read this book. A good narrator adds a whole new dimension to a story.
On to the book. This book deals with a great many issues that were significant at the time (and remain significant.
It opens with a scene in a women's prison where a prisoner is being prepared to go to her death. The viewpoint is that of a female prison warden. The prisoner is an actual historical figure, the operator of a lying-in house where women could go to give birth. She was convicted of being an accomplice in the death of at least one child left in her hands by desperate mothers. She leaves behind a daughter of her own in the care of her husband, who was not considered a party to her crimes although they lived in the same house. This scene (in the book)was written by Miss Tey, based on information provided to her by a former school mistress.
The plot is too complicated to go into more detail. However it deals with betrayal, familial love, death penalty and its unintended consequences, poverty, careers for women and social history. There's also some entertaining gossip about historical figures of the theatre.
It's important to remember that after World War I there were changes in English society. The death or disability of a good portion of a whole generation of young men left women with new responsibilities and opportunity. Sexual relationships were both more open and more divergent from the stated norm. Novels written in the period, specifically Mary Renault's contemporary set novels, supports this without having to recourse to historical sources. I thought the author handled this aspect sensitively within the themes of trust and betrayal.
Recommended for the fans of grittier mysteries. It's not light reading (or listening), but I couldn't turn it off.
(And for those who are interested, Claymore house where Amelia Sach took in her clients still stands and there is a picture of it along with the research of a descendent on the Daily Mail web site.)
I got on to the Josephine Tey series because, somewhere online, someone recommended it as a good follow-up to Agatha Christie. I first tried something..Show More » else by someone else, so undistinguished that I didn't finish it and can't remember anymore. Then I slowly grew into Upson. As mysteries go, this one had pretty much all the ingredients you can think of, plus a few more things going for it: good writing, a solid build-up, pretty solid characters in the good old Golden Age style (by which I mean solid and recognizable, but not begging for sympathy, not attempting to sound out all the pop psychology textbooks). I read the first three, I'll probably read the rest, too. And a thumbs-up for the excellent reader.
I've read the previous Tey novels and will read the new one soon, but here's the thing. I keep thinking I'm going to give each of them five stars as I..Show More » read, and then, once I'm done, I can't in full honesty give them more than four. I got to Nicola Upson by searching for Agatha Christie-like novels. Someone recommended her as similar on some forum. With Fear in the Sunlight, it all started like a Christie mystery - not the "later" part of the '50s, but the setting, the hotel, the guests, the two parties being gathered together. But what Christie does schematically, in twenty-five pages, Upson does in - well, it was an audiobook so I don't know exactly how many, but it felt like half of the book. She does it extremely well, no question: the people and circumstances come alive, and it does capture your attention. The problem is what happens afterwards: so much energy is spent on creating the backdrop of the murders, that very little is left for the actual mystery. And the solutions to her mysteries, though not bad, are never quite as clever or plausible as everything else in the book. Other than that, they're great, and the narrator is excellent.