London Rain by Nicola Upson – Review
By Sandra Callard
The name of author Nicola Upson is riding high at the moment with her fascinating collection of novels which are just perfect for a good read in front of a roaring fire in winter or on a lounge in the garden in summer. Her latest offering is London Rain, a highly compulsive read about the murder of a BBC announcer, and the early confession of the murderer. In spite of the fact that the murderer is exposed in the early chapters of the book, the author still holds the reader’s attention, and those days between the wars are cleverly and obviously identified.
The main character here is Josephine Tey, who, as readers of crime novels of that era after the First World War will likely know, was the real life author of some brilliant novels during the time of the lengthy Golden Age of Crime. This was an era when Agatha Christie ruled, and she was far and away the most well known and best read author of crime novels. However, there were numerous crime books that were written by adroit authors whose crime plots were ingenious and resourceful, and who made a very good living out of their books. Josephine Tey was one of them and her writing was sharp, witty and intelligent, and still stands out as a cut above Christie and others in her delivery and tight adherence to plot.
London Rain puts Tey still in the role of author, but one who discovers a murder and uses her skills to try and crack the case. The book is set in and around the people who worked at the BBC during the years after the First World War, and the politics and styles of that time are perfectly conveyed by Upson as the country revives itself. Although this is a crime novel, and murder being paramount, it still has the lighthearted feel that people must have felt after the war as they began to relax, albeit as they also moved unknowingly towards the Second World War.
Upson has her hand steadily on the years between the wars and her characterisation is first class. Quite surprisingly the story reveals that Tey had another woman as her very beloved partner, who happily assists her as she gets nearer to the truth about the murders. The era in question still had hard and fast rules regarding same sex partners, but the novel speaks about it clearly so perhaps it was simply sidelined and ignored in certain quarters such as theatre, literature and possibly the lives of the rich and famous.
As a dedicated reader of crime novels I can feel somewhat guilty that I am so very interested in the stories of crime, albeit in fictitious ones and never actual murder, but I redeem myself by exactly that; it is fiction and never did happen, although the possibilities are always there. Nicola Upson has a definite knack of crime writing, but her stories are never too violent or bloody, which makes for an easy and fascinating story without the gratuitous exorbitance of some writers.
London Rain by Nicola Upson is published by Faber, £8.99 paperback