When I first heard that a series of books was to be published featuring Josephine Tey as the lead character, I must admit that I was rather surprised. Tey is one of the Golden Age writers whose work has lasted well, but I’ve always had the impression that in real life she was a retiring individual, who never married and died relatively young, and who hid behind the pseudonyms of Tey and Gordon Daviot (her real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh.)
Yet Nicola Upson has not only now written three novels published by Faber and starring Tey, but she has teamed her up with an appealing cop called Archie Penrose. The first book in the series, which came out a couple of years ago, is An Expert in Murder, and it was followed by Angel With Two Faces. Two for Sorrow has now just appeared.
I’ve featured Tey in a new column for Bookdagger, which is due to appear shortly, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said there, but I do think it’s interesting to consider why her reputation has survived when that of many contemporary crime writers has faded from sight. After all, surely nobody would contemplate writing a new mystery series featuring E.R. Punshon, say, or J.J. Connington, or other Golden Age practitioners.
The explanation for her success owes something, I think, to the fact that Tey was a genuinely good literary stylist, while her plots were apt to be a bit ‘different’, for example because she did not always write about murder. The Daugher of Time is her most famous book, but I prefer the excellent Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair. I do hope Upson’s books manage to interest more readers in the work of this fine writer.