Saturday, September 27, 2014

Two for Sorrow: Review

Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson is the third novel in her historical mystery series featuring Josephine Tey (aka Eilizabeth Mackintosh). In order to fully understand the relationships between various recurring characters, I would definitely suggest that anyone interested in reading the novels begin at the beginning (An Expert in Murder). Upson anchors her third book with the true criminal case of Amelia Sach and Annie Walters--better know at the turn of the twentieth century as the Finchley baby farmers. Josephine Tey is researching the case thirty-some years later for a book she intends to write based upon the story of the only double-hanging of women in modern times. Tied to the case is Celia Bannerman, former wardress of Holloway prison--present for the infamous hanging--and current secretary to the Cowdray Club, key figure in nursing administration and welfare work. Josephine is a member of the club and Miss Bannerman is one of the first people she interviews.

But the historical case isn't the only one that involves the club. Inspector Penrose, Josephine's friend, is called in to investigate a series of blackmail letters sent to members and petty thefts. It's easy for the ladies of the club to want to blame the ex-convicts that Celia Bannerman has given jobs in an effort at rehabilitation, but Penrose isn't so sure. And when another rehabilitated young woman who works for his cousins, the Motley sisters, in their sewing establishment is brutally killed while in the midst of working overtime to help prepare for a gala ball at the club, he is more convinced than ever that there is more going on than simple blackmail and thievery. The deeper he digs, the more ties he finds to the crimes of the past and soon his investigation and Josephine's research point to a very surprising suspect.

This is an engaging mystery and Upson works the historical crime into her story of Josephine Tey with great skill. While, it's true that the "modern" (for Tey's time) crimes are fictional, they are a logical outcome of the fictional rendering of the Finchley baby murders. She has also become quite skillful at transporting us back to the years between the World Wars. Not quite as absorbing as the first two, but an enjoyable read none-the-less and the reveal of the culprit came as quite a surprise. I thought I knew who did it--based not on the motive first given but on the identity of the blackmail letter-writer. I was wrong. Most disappointing, however, is the fact that the bulk of the blackmail letters are not explained at all--that little mystery gets lost in the capture of the murderer.

The one other item that stands out to me this time is the use of Elizabeth Macintosh's pen-name throughout. It finally hit (why it took till book three, I'm not sure) that it seems a bit odd that all of her friends refer to her as Josephine and not as Elizabeth. Was that really how she was known to her intimate circle?

But, again, a good solid read and I will definitely continue with the series. ★★

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I don't recall the event itself, but it is waaaaay before my time. :-) Great review, sounds like an intriguing read.