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A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickl A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connected to her play. "Richard of Bordeaux" has been the surprise hit of the season, with pacifist themes that strike a chord in a world still haunted by war. Now, however, it seems that Tey could become the victim of her own success, as her reputation--and even her life--is put at risk. A second murder confirms Penrose's suspicions that somewhere among this flamboyant theatre set is a ruthless and spiteful killer. Together, Penrose and Tey must confront their own ghosts in search of someone who will stop at nothing. An Expert in Murder is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and a richly atmospheric detective novel in its own right.


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A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickl A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connected to her play. "Richard of Bordeaux" has been the surprise hit of the season, with pacifist themes that strike a chord in a world still haunted by war. Now, however, it seems that Tey could become the victim of her own success, as her reputation--and even her life--is put at risk. A second murder confirms Penrose's suspicions that somewhere among this flamboyant theatre set is a ruthless and spiteful killer. Together, Penrose and Tey must confront their own ghosts in search of someone who will stop at nothing. An Expert in Murder is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and a richly atmospheric detective novel in its own right.

30 review for An Expert in Murder

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    It is popular now to use real life characters in fictional situations. This novel takes mystery author, Josephine Tey, and puts her centre stage in a real life crime novel. Tey was a playwright, as well a mystery writer, and this book begins with Tey travelling to London for the final week of her successful play, “Richard of Bordeaux,” which is on at the New Theatre, St Martin’s Lane. The real play made John Gielgud a star and he features here as the fictional John Terry, alongside many other me It is popular now to use real life characters in fictional situations. This novel takes mystery author, Josephine Tey, and puts her centre stage in a real life crime novel. Tey was a playwright, as well a mystery writer, and this book begins with Tey travelling to London for the final week of her successful play, “Richard of Bordeaux,” which is on at the New Theatre, St Martin’s Lane. The real play made John Gielgud a star and he features here as the fictional John Terry, alongside many other members of the cast and crew. On the train journey down, Tey meets a young woman, called Elspeth Simmons. A huge fan of the theatre, and Josephine’s play, she is terribly excited to meet Tey and, although somewhat embarrassed, Tey finds she is warmed by Elspeth’s happiness and enthusiasm. When they get to London, Tey introduces her to Lydia Beaumont, the leading lady. Then Elspeth remembers that she has forgotten a bag and rushes back to the train. When Elspeth is found murdered in the train carriage, Inspector Archie Penrose has to investigate the death and the strange links to Josephine’s play. One of my issues with this book are the links between all the characters. Archie Penrose knew Josephine Tey’s lover in WWI, he is the cousin of the two sisters that Tey is staying with, and the sisters are involved with the theatre. There is also simply too much in this novel that feels modern – from the open acceptance of relationships that might raise eyebrows in the 1930’s (Upson relying on the open mindedness of the theatre) to the very modern language, including copious swearing, which, along with the modern attitudes, just do not quite work as typical to the period. This is an involved plot, which, as so many Golden Age mysteries really do, has its roots in the First World War. The shadow of this conflict lays over the whole novel and adds a darkness to the storyline. I listened to this on audio and Sandra Duncan read this very well. It was an enjoyable book, despite my issues with it. If you enjoy this novel, you might also like, “A Talent for Murder,” by Andrew Wilson, which features Agatha Christie in a fictional setting. Rated 3.5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Things that annoyed me about this book: 1. The ridiculous overuse of the word "lover". 2. The introduction of an enormous amount of characters with little or no purpose. 3. The main character (Josephine Tey) was extremely dull -- she didn't like being open or personal with anyone, including many if not all of her closest friends, though we are to feel sorry for her because she has suffered a horrible tragedy. Nor is she particularly friendly or kind, except of course when she inexplicably became Things that annoyed me about this book: 1. The ridiculous overuse of the word "lover". 2. The introduction of an enormous amount of characters with little or no purpose. 3. The main character (Josephine Tey) was extremely dull -- she didn't like being open or personal with anyone, including many if not all of her closest friends, though we are to feel sorry for her because she has suffered a horrible tragedy. Nor is she particularly friendly or kind, except of course when she inexplicably became best chums with the future murder victim after a short train ride. In addition to her general dislike of people, she was a pill about her play and how it brought all this unwelcome attention. It was hard to see why anyone really liked her very much. I know she is based on a real-life person, but she was a dry as a stack of toast served at a wedding reception. 4. The book is touted as a Josephine Tey mystery which would lead one to believe that Josephine is actually doing the sleuthing. This is not so; there is a police officer who does much of the investigating. Josephine figures it out at the end, mostly by accident.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This was an okay read but I have to own to being a little disappointed. It sounded to be just what I enjoy most - an historical mystery, set in England with an interesting main character. So, it started well, but after a while it seemed to get bogged down in too much description, too many words! Maybe even too many characters. I waded on, not really enjoying it but not disliking it either, and then towards the end it picked up the pace and galloped to a really good ending. I am now a little bit i This was an okay read but I have to own to being a little disappointed. It sounded to be just what I enjoy most - an historical mystery, set in England with an interesting main character. So, it started well, but after a while it seemed to get bogged down in too much description, too many words! Maybe even too many characters. I waded on, not really enjoying it but not disliking it either, and then towards the end it picked up the pace and galloped to a really good ending. I am now a little bit invested in Archie and Josephine so I will probably have to continue with the series. It may well grow on me:)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Underwood

    "In both crimes there was a terrifying lack of humanity, a mockery of the dead which chilled him (Penrose) even more than the loss of life itself." There is an old-style elegance to this richly atmospheric mystery set in the world of the theatre during the early 1930s. Mystery writer and playwright Josephine Tey is the central character in this story of a shocking murder aboard a train. The investigation slowly reveals a tangled web of events harking back to the Great War, the complexity of which "In both crimes there was a terrifying lack of humanity, a mockery of the dead which chilled him (Penrose) even more than the loss of life itself." There is an old-style elegance to this richly atmospheric mystery set in the world of the theatre during the early 1930s. Mystery writer and playwright Josephine Tey is the central character in this story of a shocking murder aboard a train. The investigation slowly reveals a tangled web of events harking back to the Great War, the complexity of which is only illuminated at the end, revealing just about everyone involved to be a victim in the tragedy. Nicola Upson has written a beautiful and involving mystery which transcends the genre. By framing her novel around Josephine Tey, it allows her to paint a vivid picture of the period, and the emotions still lingering after the Great War. You really feel like you are in Tey's era while reading this. While Tey could have become just a plot device in another author's hand, she becomes a real person, as do many of the other characters, including her romantic interest, Inspector Archie Penrose. Tey's most successful play, which made Sir John Gieguld a star, is where danger lies. But it is on a train from Scotland to London where Josephine comes into contact with a special young woman full of life and simple charm. On her way to meet her boyfriend, Elspeth will meet evil, and not live long enough to know the reason why. Upson paints a sweet and romantic picture of the times themselves, and Elspeth, giving her murder a poignancy. As Archie investigates and Josephine mingles, every character is fleshed out in a way we used to see during Tey's era of great mystery writers. Josephine takes a back seat during the middle portion of the book as we are treated to lovers and sickness, old wounds and bitterness. This has the reader wondering how any of this touched the far removed, adopted girl who closed her eyes for the last time aboard a train to London. Then a second particularly vile murder much closer to Josephine's play takes place. Archie and Josephine begin to untangle the ties which led to the murders from different angles, in the last portion of the mystery. There is a rush to reach the end for the reader, by now aching to discover the entire twisting series of events that began in a tunnel during the war, and ended tragically on a train bound for London. There is a tenderness to the conclusion, showing the anguish and aftermath of the Great War and the many lives it took, some in ways unexpected and far reaching. Archie and Josephine's relationship does not go untouched by events either, giving the reader a thirst for more. While it isn’t perfect, and at times leans toward literary fiction a bit too much to create genuine excitement, it is a fine and atmospheric mystery with much to offer those who love a period mystery, and/or Josephine Tey.

  5. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    He suddenly had an image of his down-to-earth sergeant rushing home from the Yard every night to devour the latest thriller by his fireside. Better still, perhaps he was actually writing one of his own. The thought of Miss Dorothy L. Sayers turning out to be a portly, moustached officer of the law in his early fifties was priceless, and he made a mental note to mention it to Josephine when he saw her tomorrow night. It appears I may have found that most rare of things: a literary tribute (a.k.a. He suddenly had an image of his down-to-earth sergeant rushing home from the Yard every night to devour the latest thriller by his fireside. Better still, perhaps he was actually writing one of his own. The thought of Miss Dorothy L. Sayers turning out to be a portly, moustached officer of the law in his early fifties was priceless, and he made a mental note to mention it to Josephine when he saw her tomorrow night. It appears I may have found that most rare of things: a literary tribute (a.k.a. fan-fiction) that worked for me! Josephine Tey was a bit of a mystery. She was a private person, little is known about her, and that which is known seems to indicate that she deliberately kept her affairs separate from each other - i.e. she led a multitude of lives - one as playwright, one as a mystery writer, one in Inverness, another in London, perhaps quite another somewhere else. Nicola Upson took what research she could get and jumped on the idea of making this mystery woman the star of a semi-biographical murder mystery. (The murder is no biographical...I think.) For me this worked really well. It had biographical fact mixed with imagined scenes, but because we know so little about Tey, these elements change over seamlessly in Upson recreation of the 1930s London West End theatre-land, which happens to be one of my favourite places, too. In fact, I thought the whole scene-setting, which is the undoing of many (mystery) writers for me, worked really well in this one: We're passing by Tey's compartment on the train south from Berwick, because we learn in Tey's own The Man in the Queue that there is no direct train from Inverness, yet, and that Tey would have had to change at Edinburgh Waverley. We get to see her being picked up by friends at King's Cross. We get to be in the crowd queueing for theatre tickets. We got go to the dress circle bar, mingle with the crowd outside the stage door after performances hoping to get an autograph. We get to go home with various actors and see behind the curtains. I thought Upson's writing had an easy and fun flow to it that made this quite an easy, cozy read. Yet, she tackles quite serious issues, amongst which I was delighted to read how characters dealt with the aftermath of the First World War. Granted these parts reminded me more of Dorothy L. Sayer's writing than Tey's, but hey, I have not read all of Tey's work yet and given that Upson was trying to re-create a distinct time period in the pages of this, her first, Tey mystery, I was drawn in from start to finish. As soon as he saw the great Union Jack which had replaced the usual hanging at the front of the pulpit, Penrose realised that God’s representative – a sanctimonious bigot at the best of times, even if he was family – had changed his agenda. After preaching a terrifying sermon on the glories of battle, sanctifying maiming, slaughter and bloodshed with the blessing of a higher authority, the rector had urged all the young men to join the army, to sate the country’s appetite for soldiers who would defend the justice of the war. What he had failed to mention was that it was a cause for which thousands of them would be asked to give their lives, but his harvest sermon had done the trick: by the end of the year, every eligible man in the village had signed up to Kitchener’s new army, an exodus which was replicated all over the country, swelling the ranks by nearly a million in the space of just four months. Some expected garrison service at home while the real soldiers went off to do the real soldiering; most believed the papers when they said it would be a short war, over by Christmas at the outside. All had been wrong, and he was still sickened to the stomach when he thought of that call from the altar for young men to offer themselves for the glory of God and eight shillings and nine pence a week.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I'm generally suspicious of crime novels that take real people and plunk them down in a series of murders, but in this one, Upson has captured beautifully the era and the person of Josephine Tey. I look forward to more.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Parts of this book were fine. I loved the setting and the author's desciptions of London during the 1930's. Overall, though, I can't really recommend it. I grew weary of all the characters, who were "theater people" and were awful humans. I just didn't really care about them. The laborious intertwinings of all the disfunctional families were difficult to keep straight. I don't think I bothered to finish it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    I loved the setting for this book, both the period - 1930s - and the place - the West End of London. The story centred in and around the New Theatre in St. Martin's Lane and I really enjoyed finding out more about that area and the descriptions are so accurate that you can literally trace the routes on a map and check out the landmarks and buildings. For me, it was one of those books that I just didn't want to end and that was on my mind still several days after I'd finished it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    In March 1934, Josephine Tey’s hit play Richard of Bordeaux is in its final week, so she takes the train into London for the festivities. On the train, she meets a lovely young woman who is a dedicated fan. But shortly after they arrive a shocking murder is committed, and it soon becomes apparent that Josephine is connected to the crime in ways she never imagined. This is a very good historical mystery which features a real person. The story is fictional, but Upson includes some factual elements In March 1934, Josephine Tey’s hit play Richard of Bordeaux is in its final week, so she takes the train into London for the festivities. On the train, she meets a lovely young woman who is a dedicated fan. But shortly after they arrive a shocking murder is committed, and it soon becomes apparent that Josephine is connected to the crime in ways she never imagined. This is a very good historical mystery which features a real person. The story is fictional, but Upson includes some factual elements which lend a real sense of the time and place. The real Josephine Tey did have a very successful play titled Richard of Bordeaux, which ran for 483 performances, closing on 24March1934. Unlike in the novel, there was no murder associated with the actual play. Rather, it made a star out of John Gielgud. I liked the cast of characters that Upson used for the novel, from the main characters to ancillary characters (love the housekeeper, Snipe). The mystery is well thought out and sufficiently complicated to keep the reader guessing. I did think the final reveal was a little over the top, but it didn’t materially affect my enjoyment of the book. And there’s an interesting side story about a potential relationship between Josephine and Detective Inspector Archie Penrose that will probably develop over successive books in the series. I’ll definitely read more of this series.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    A friend dropped this book off for me because she knew I am a Josephine Tey (Elizabeth Macintosh) fan, as she is. We both love The Daughter of Time (which some think of as the best English mystery). She found this book which includes Tey as one of its characters, in London to see the last performances of her play, Richard of Bordeaux. A young woman, with whom she travels down from Inverness to London, is murdered soon after their arrival. Then begins the assortment of likely murderers, all surro A friend dropped this book off for me because she knew I am a Josephine Tey (Elizabeth Macintosh) fan, as she is. We both love The Daughter of Time (which some think of as the best English mystery). She found this book which includes Tey as one of its characters, in London to see the last performances of her play, Richard of Bordeaux. A young woman, with whom she travels down from Inverness to London, is murdered soon after their arrival. Then begins the assortment of likely murderers, all surrounding the theater where her play is a solid hit. It's a gentle little mystery, and Detective Inspector Archie Penrose isn't too far off from Inspector Grant, if you know The Daughter of Time. That said, this isn't as riveting as "the real" mystery, which is based on the history of the two princes in the Tower. Nicola Upson does try to bring in aspects of Tey's Richard of Bordeaux and of World War I, some quotes from the play, the iris flower, English soldiers, but I didn't enjoy it as much. Good summertime read, though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I suppose for a first book in a series, this book wasn’t all bad but... Josephine Tey is a writer who, whilst on a train journey from her home in Inverness to London, meets a young girl who claims to be one of her biggest fans. Later, the young girl is murdered. Josephine’s friend, Archie, is the detective assigned to the case and he soon becomes worried that perhaps Josephine was the intended victim. This idea is not such a leap when someone involved with the theatre production of Josephine’s pl I suppose for a first book in a series, this book wasn’t all bad but... Josephine Tey is a writer who, whilst on a train journey from her home in Inverness to London, meets a young girl who claims to be one of her biggest fans. Later, the young girl is murdered. Josephine’s friend, Archie, is the detective assigned to the case and he soon becomes worried that perhaps Josephine was the intended victim. This idea is not such a leap when someone involved with the theatre production of Josephine’s play is also murdered. Upson changes point of view from Josephine and Archie to a lot of the minor characters. This was obviously to increase the suspect pool but, at times, I found it was too much.  Upson would have done better to have just Josephine or Archie discover some of the mystery plot points by actually detecting rather than revealing them to the reader via supporting characters. Josephine and Archie for the most don’t really have any apparent skills when it comes to sleuthing. There’s million clues left at the scenes of the crimes but neither makes any links between them and the murderer. As is often the case in cosies, they basically just stumble across the answers to the mystery and the identity of whodunnit. However, what is a little rarer in cosies was the graphic and gruesome portrayal of the murders and the murder scenes (the placement of the dolls in particular made me wonder if this was a horror story for a moment). This seemed odd for the genre (which this book is obviously being marketed towards). If I’d been involved in the editing, I’d have advised that this, along with the amount of swearing, should have been reined in for a cosy's target audience.  Actually, overall, the writing often felt too modern for the time setting of the book (a few years after WW1). I thought there was a few out of place references, especially when it came to the romantic relationships of the characters. Upson/the characters continually referred to Josephine’s late boyfriend as her ‘lover’. I feel like such an open acceptance and admission that he and Josephine were in an intimate relationship was incorrect for the time. (I must point out I never got a sense that the term ‘lover’ was meant to indicate anything less sexual between the characters.) Two characters in a lesbian relationship also constantly use the term lover for each other and again, it felt a clunky term for the time setting of the book. (Actually it feels a clunky term for 2019. Maybe it’s something said more in the US and just seemed jarring to me? I don’t know.) I wavered on the way the women’s gay relationship was portrayed. Okay, the characters were part of the acting community and as such would have been accepted by their peers more than in general society but for not one single character to mention their bravado of having an openly gay relationship in that era seems a little fanciful. It would have made more sense for the characters to be occasionally referred to as 'companions' than 'lovers'. Meanwhile, some other society issues of the time (especially women’s rights, or lack of, I should say) became a little preachy.  Another huge issue I had with the book was the amount of chapters I had to wade through after the crime was solved. I have discovered I am more of a fan of finding out whodunnit and closing the book. Upson went into great detail of the murderer’s motivations and reasons for committing the crime, along with the affects this had on the other characters. It went on for several chapters and I think this should have been culled down considerably. The parts in the final chapters focusing on Josephine and Archie’s almost romance even became boring. A shame, because I had enjoyed their scenes together up to that point. I took the book on face value and had no idea that Tey and some other aspects portrayed (her late ‘lover’ and the play, for starters) were real until I read it in the author notes at the end. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Not very favourably though. In fact, I probably took off a star for this fact alone. (I might have felt better about this if I’d known about it beforehand.)  I have now read up on Tey who is an interesting character but as a book character, I’m not sure. It’s also perfectly obvious that one of the supporting characters was John Geilguld and, again, this makes me a little uncomfortable. It almost feels like I just read unapproved real life fanfic. However, the book has made me want to read more of real life Tey’s books. I’m a little perplexed by why she isn’t as well known today as some of her contemporaries, despite how apparently successful she was when she was alive. As for this book's Josephine Tey? I will probably give the next book in the series a go. Maybe some of the problems I have this time around will be less noticeable as Upson settles more confidently into the series. 3 out of 5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Set in 1934, Josephine Tey is on her way to London to the last week of her own award-winning West End play. But a young woman she meets on the train is murdered, and then the owner of the theatre where her play is being staged, and her friend Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that Tey herself is the ultimate victim... The setting for Upson's book - 1930s theatreland - is immaculate and fully-realised, and her characters are rounded with voices of their own. Indeed, dialogue, especially that o Set in 1934, Josephine Tey is on her way to London to the last week of her own award-winning West End play. But a young woman she meets on the train is murdered, and then the owner of the theatre where her play is being staged, and her friend Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that Tey herself is the ultimate victim... The setting for Upson's book - 1930s theatreland - is immaculate and fully-realised, and her characters are rounded with voices of their own. Indeed, dialogue, especially that of the wonderful Morley sisters, is one of the highlights of this book. However, I felt that the central murder plot is both satisfying and highly artificial: far too many coincidences abound in how these people, linked through incidents that happened twenty years ago, find themselves in the same close circle. That said, Upson writes fluently and gives her characters emotional pasts and depths that are not frequently met with in GA novels. This was a re-read for me with a book group and I can understand why some might not choose to read on. Personally, I like the way Upson sites her plot in a reconstructed past but with the sensibilities and hindsight of our present. The series goes from strength to strength and becomes more overtly feminist in its perspectives. It's even become entangled in my head with Tey's own original books - surely a compliment to Upson's act of historical ventriloquism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Author Nicola Upson has not recreated the novels of Josephine Tey (one of the pseudonyms used by Scottish novelist and playwright Elizabeth MacKintosh). But An Expert in Murder remains a pretty serviceable historical mystery, even if both Tey and love-interest, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, are a bit twee. Despite that, the mystery at the heart of the novel is a gripping one. A girl traveling with Josephine Tey is murdered soon after the train arrives. Was she the intended victim? Or was T Author Nicola Upson has not recreated the novels of Josephine Tey (one of the pseudonyms used by Scottish novelist and playwright Elizabeth MacKintosh). But An Expert in Murder remains a pretty serviceable historical mystery, even if both Tey and love-interest, Detective Inspector Archie Penrose, are a bit twee. Despite that, the mystery at the heart of the novel is a gripping one. A girl traveling with Josephine Tey is murdered soon after the train arrives. Was she the intended victim? Or was Tey? The action takes place in the last few weeks of the year-long run of Tey’s biggest West End hit, Richard of Bordeaux, and readers will enjoy a thinly veiled version of Sir John Gielgud in his brash youth. I couldn’t put the book down until I found out the ending. I’ve already begun the sequel. Yes, the novel was that good. Here’s to hoping that Upson improves on the characterization of Tey and Penrose in Angel with Two Faces.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deanna

    This had a promising start, but devolved into a POV salad, slipping here and there around a crime that became less interesting as time went on. As the author says, Josephine Tey was "bored by the trappings of theater life", and this book overall illustrates her frustrations, though obviously that wasn't the intent.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    There is so much to unpack with this book I could be at it for a week and we'd still only be dealing with the underwear. Does that analogy work? Like the underwear is something basic that you pack first like the cast of characters and there are so many of those that I could spend the whole review just talking about them leaving out the "pants" and "cocktail dresses" like those are the plot and the theme? This is why I'm not a professional writer in case anyone was wondering. This book is dense, ve There is so much to unpack with this book I could be at it for a week and we'd still only be dealing with the underwear. Does that analogy work? Like the underwear is something basic that you pack first like the cast of characters and there are so many of those that I could spend the whole review just talking about them leaving out the "pants" and "cocktail dresses" like those are the plot and the theme? This is why I'm not a professional writer in case anyone was wondering. This book is dense, very, very, verrrryyy dense. It's also very well written, down right beautiful at times, and once or twice utterly revolutory. That is when its not being a melodramatic soap opera populated with stereotypes and mustache twirling villains. You see my conflict? On the one hand we've got a totally cool concept. The really very talented Nicola Upson has taken the very real Josephine Tey, a mystery author and playwright, and turned her into the very kind of detective she once wrote about. With this particular book she's gotten even more meta by setting it in the midst of the run of "Richard of Bordeaux" the super successful very play Tey really did write in the 1930's. Tey meets a young fan of the play, which is about to close and go on tour, on the train, strikes up an immediate friendship and then the girl is promptly murdered in a weird, dramatic way. Wackiness, as it always does, ensues. Upson's descriptions of post World War I London are intense and dear god are they detailed. So detailed. The pages actually look jampacked. I don't know if that's the typeface or the layout but you can literally see how many words are jammed on the pages. This is also possibly the most English book I have ever read in the history of books set in England. Everyone is just soooooooo English. They're all rich and theatery and "dahling" this and "do be a dear" that and someone is always putting the kettle on or serving kidney's and kippers and as people start being murdered left, right, and center the biggest concerns the victims loved ones are having is whether or not the police are being inconvenienced having to do all this wretched investigating. Then we have the central mystery itself which isn't really revealed until you're a good three quarters of the way through the book and then it's not so much revealed as it is dropped directly onto the reader's head. I don't have a problem with that per say but its problematic here because instead of having anyone discover anything a character we've never met up till this point simply descends on everyone and exposits the entire thing to the detective investigating the crimes. Then the crime itself ends up being really, really dramatic to the point of absurdity. The only thing that keeps everything from going entirely off the rails is Upson's writing and the sincerity she imbues her characters with. They may be stereotypes but dammit they're sincere stereotypes. There's another tiny thing that happens more than once that both boggled my mind and highly annoyed me. For some bizarre reason Upson would occasionally have conversations or investigative things happen "off stage." So a scene would start between two characters with one apologizing to the other for being so rude when they last spoke. Hang on, I'd think, when did they last speak? I don't remember an argument!? I'd spend several minutes trying to figure out if I'd skipped a scene or had amnesia only to eventually realize that for some bizarre reason Upson had skipped this argument and was instead just serving up the aftermath. It happened more than once and managed to both completely halt the story in its tracks while I tried to get my bearings again and served absolutely no technical purpose since the book is STILL way too long and involved. I know all this sounds like I didn't like this book when the reality is I genuinely did. It was passionate and heartfelt and I loved Josephine's character. She's a strange, isolated, lonely woman trying to make her way in a world she doesn't recognize anymore. She's unsure if she even wants the fame that's come with her writing and doubtful that she will ever truly be able to connect with anyone after losing her lover in the war. She's deeply insightful, as writer's usually are, very brave, and unswerving in her loyalty to her friends. Its hard not to admire a character like that. I kept thinking she was someone I would have very much liked to know, that's how real she seemed. I can forgive a lot of an author who can write a character like that.

  16. 5 out of 5

    CLM

    Not only did I enjoy the writing style, I felt immediately fond of the heroine although I am still perplexed by the concept of writing a book about Josephine Tey, who isn't exactly a real person in that this was one of the pseudonyms used by Elizabeth Mackintosh. I do recommend this highly. In some ways, it felt as if Tey could have written it and I was sad when it ended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Extra Debut: Murder mystery set in 1934. A playwright travels to London for the final week of her hit play and meets an ill-fated young fan. From April 2008. Episode 2 0f 10 The clues to a murder lead Inspector Penrose to his old acquaintance Josephine Tey. Episode 3 of 10 The investigation leads Penrose into the theatre world of London's West End. Episode 4 of 10 Penrose waits for an opportunity to speak to impresario Bernard Aubrey, but tragedy is about to strike at the theatre. Ep From BBC Radio 4 - Extra Debut: Murder mystery set in 1934. A playwright travels to London for the final week of her hit play and meets an ill-fated young fan. From April 2008. Episode 2 0f 10 The clues to a murder lead Inspector Penrose to his old acquaintance Josephine Tey. Episode 3 of 10 The investigation leads Penrose into the theatre world of London's West End. Episode 4 of 10 Penrose waits for an opportunity to speak to impresario Bernard Aubrey, but tragedy is about to strike at the theatre. Episode 5 of 10 Penrose is nowhere near catching the murderer and is anxious that Josephine could be the next victim. Episode 6 of 10 Penrose suspects that the war may hold the key to his double murder investigation. Meanwhile, Hedley White, one of the chief suspects, reappears. Episode 7 of 10 Hedley has seeks an alibi for the time of Elspeth's murder. Penrose is unconvinced that Josephine was not the intended victim. Episode 8 of 10 Elspeth's adoptive mother Alice Simmons arrives in London and provides Penrose with a vital link between the past and the present. Episode 9 of 10 Penrose has discovered a link between Elspeth and Bernard, but what he has yet to find out is the identity of the murderer. Vital information comes from a very unexpected source. Episode 10 of 10 Josephine and Marta find themselves in mortal danger. Marta has made a ghastly discovery as the investigation closes in on the murderer. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009xzbk

  18. 5 out of 5

    Susan in Perthshire

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have read a couple of the other books in this series but not the first. I found a copy of this in a charity shop whilst on holiday and thought it was the ideal opportunity to catch up. Clearly Nicola Upson is a good writer. I liked how she engaged my interest from the very beginning and developed her characters so swiftly. The device of using Elizabeth MacKintosh's nom de plume as an actual character appealed to me but throughout the book, I began to be somewhat thrown by the mixing up of iden I have read a couple of the other books in this series but not the first. I found a copy of this in a charity shop whilst on holiday and thought it was the ideal opportunity to catch up. Clearly Nicola Upson is a good writer. I liked how she engaged my interest from the very beginning and developed her characters so swiftly. The device of using Elizabeth MacKintosh's nom de plume as an actual character appealed to me but throughout the book, I began to be somewhat thrown by the mixing up of identities. Elizabeth wrote as Gordon Daviot when writing plays: so to refer to Josephine as the writer of Richard of Bordeaux threw me a little. Also, knowing that the play had launched the career of John Gielgud from Old Vic actor to 'Superstar' - it was odd to find the actor referred to as John Terry, ( a clever reference given Gielgud's relationship to Ellen Terry). However that was really a minor problem and I swiftly entered into the story leaving my sceptical impulses behind me! It was interesting encountering characters whom I had already met in subsequent books in the series but I rather enjoyed that process. I found the structure of this book nowhere near as skilfully developed as in subsequent books. The way in which all the characters were introduced after the first murder seemed lengthy, clumsy and rather unwieldy to me. I found it difficult to remember who was whom! The intricacies of the plotting were impressive and I enjoyed this section of the book. However, the final reveal was altogether too swift and the explanation too facile. The male murderer was a cartoon caricature. I found myself altogether annoyed by Josephine's willingness to let the woman who had been totally willing to collaborate on her murder, escape! and thought it just too unbelievable. I did mostly enjoy the book but I am glad I did not read it first! I think the subsequent books in the series showed that Nicola Upson could learn from her mistakes and up her game. i was really unsure whether this was a 3 or 4 star read and in view of the flaws I have come down to a 3 but parts of it are definitely 4 star!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    What a disappointment. When I spotted this book and noticed it was concerning the writer Jospehine Tey I thought it had great potential. How wrong could I be? Starting reasonably well with a good atmosphere it degenerated into something that I was unable to follow and left me wondering what was happening and why. Okay there was murder but I couldn't understand why, even at the end of the book, which did have some reasonable moments but overall was dull and uninteresting.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    An Expert in Murder is a quite a good book, but in many ways, it's a victim to its own complications. There's a great deal going on with it, so let me give a brief summary, get into some of its stumbling blocks, and then close with why you really should read it anyway. Josephine Tey, a Scottish writer and playwright, is traveling by train to London in the 1930s for the final week that her play, Richard of Bordeaux, will be playing in the West End. While on the train, she meets Elspeth Simmons, a An Expert in Murder is a quite a good book, but in many ways, it's a victim to its own complications. There's a great deal going on with it, so let me give a brief summary, get into some of its stumbling blocks, and then close with why you really should read it anyway. Josephine Tey, a Scottish writer and playwright, is traveling by train to London in the 1930s for the final week that her play, Richard of Bordeaux, will be playing in the West End. While on the train, she meets Elspeth Simmons, a young girl who recognizes Tey from a theater review and is quite a fan of her work. Elspeth is staying with her aunt and uncle in London, but she and her beau (who happens to work backstage on Richard of Bordeaux) will be seeing the play later that week. Tey is charmed by the girl, even inviting her to meet the lead actress of the play, who is meeting Tey at the station. Elspeth does so, and in her excitement, forgets her luggage on the train and runs back to retrieve it. Tey and her actress friend leave, but when Elspeth returns to the train car, she is brutally murdered in a way that the police can only believe is premeditated. She will not be the only casualty in this complicated story of the theater and England after the first World War -- for even if the war is over, its effects are still very present in the lives of those who lived through it. This is Nicola Upson's first mystery novel and don't let yourself be convinced otherwise as you start to read it. I say this because I knew it was the first, and yet kept second-guessing myself. There are two reasons for this. Number one: Upson gave herself the daunting task of fictionalizing history. Her main character, Josephine Tey, is based on Elizabeth Macintosh, a Scottish mystery novelist. Josephine Tey was one of two pseudonyms that Macintosh used; the other is Gordon Daviot. Upson nods to both of these, as Upson's character of Tey writes under the name Daviot. This novel focuses on events surrounding the original West End staging of Macintosh/Tey/Daviot's play Richard of Bordeaux. Now, the plot of this novel is entirely fictional, but many of the characters are modeled on real people. This is a lot of overlay to deal with, but not too much... which brings me to the second reason that I felt like I was missing something throughout the beginning chapters. There was information being glazed over in a way that suggested that these were plotpoints of an earlier novel and all you needed to know was the outcome (aka a court case ruled in favor of Tey and as a result, some other author committed suicide). These incidents that have taken place prior to the events that are taking place in this novel are actually important here in this story, but you aren't necessarily given that impression. When Tey refers to her guilt that author's suicide, the reader feels confused because we are not given much to go on, and the natural impulse is to assume there was backstory here in the form of another novel that we clearly skipped/missed. I'm not sure what could have been done to make this better, but it wasn't until halfway through the book that I realized this backstory was still very much in play. It made things confusing and you never want your reader to spend a lot of time thinking, "did I miss something?" That said, I quite enjoyed An Expert in Murder. It has its first novel flaws, but perhaps Upson is only really guilty of being ambitious. Upson paints an incredibly vivid picture of theater in the 1930s -- which I assume might be the subject of her nonfiction works, and certainly might be influenced by her own work in theater. It's not simply the on-stage action (because really, this isn't focused on much at all, except in discussions off-stage), but the theater-owner and the backstage crew are interesting, too. One accepts that strong personalities populate the theater, and so they do not seem at all out of place with their quips. Upson doesn't shy away from depicting homosexual relationships even at this time, though mostly she acknowledges that while they might be more common in the theater world, they were still bound by certain societal rules away from the footlights. Her characters off the stage have a bit more depth. Tey was interesting as a slightly older female lead character, but Archie Penrose, the detective, was really great. Their interaction is great and restrained -- very English, but wonderfully multi-faceted. Their link is a bit contrived, but Upson has a real gift for depicting poignant facts that have to do with this time period and if the complications are somewhat easy to foresee, you'll at least appreciate what still feels like genuine emotion without being overly dramatic. The complications of having survived friends and loved ones who were lost in a war, the attempts to move on with one's life, the inability to escape atrocities committed on and off the battlefield... Upson really shines here. I wasn't was thrilled with the ending of the murder mystery (don't worry, no spoilers here), but it came with what felt like a caricature of an evil villain. But even that wasn't quite enough for me to set aside the enjoyment that I'd gotten out of the rest of the novel's prose. So I certainly believe that Upson will be a mystery writer to watch if she can keep pace with her own standards. I feel that, given the amazing depth of this work, they must be rather high. With all the plotpoints and characters, things felt slightly contrived, but despite these few issues, I still think the book was quite worthwhile and I look forward to the next Josephine Tey mystery, where hopefully Upson will have ironed out a few kinks. Oh, and I'll admit that this is another book where I was lured in by the cover -- I think it's just lovely.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rusalka

    Tell you what. Been definitely getting my murder mystery fix lately. I bought this on a whim. I needed an "X" book quickly. I couldn't find one anywhere, and then ended up in the bookshop at my work. I saw this. It was expensive (I hardly ever pay full Aussie retail for books. Why spend $30 on a new paperback when I can buy it online for $10 or less?) but I was borderline desperate. And I figured if I didn't like it, Mum probably would so it could be a present for her. So I read it. It is set in Tell you what. Been definitely getting my murder mystery fix lately. I bought this on a whim. I needed an "X" book quickly. I couldn't find one anywhere, and then ended up in the bookshop at my work. I saw this. It was expensive (I hardly ever pay full Aussie retail for books. Why spend $30 on a new paperback when I can buy it online for $10 or less?) but I was borderline desperate. And I figured if I didn't like it, Mum probably would so it could be a present for her. So I read it. It is set in the 1930s in London. A murder mystery writer and playwrite Josephine Tey is on her way down to London from Inverness on the train to see her play's last week in production on the West End. Some one gets murdered on the train. It all links back to her play. And then more murders happen. Everyone hates each other or is tied up in some way to another. It all seems too hard, but luckily Josephine and her detective friend who she bases her character off in her books, are there to save the day and catch the baddie. I sound cynical. But it was cute. It's just such a well used plot now you can't really describe it without sounding cynical. It's a cozy. And we all know how cozies end. And they all sound a little lame when you describe them. There was a lot of WWI flashbacks which was a little annoying. Not the ones central to the plot, just the whole "Everyone was so happy before the war" ones. Yes, I know. I'm a bad person. I also had a real problem with the characters' sexuality. Well, obviously not a "problem" problem, as you would know from my other reviews. But everyone was so openly gay or bi. And I understand that it was more tolerated with women especially after the war, but you couldn't go around introducing them as your lover or snogging people on the street. You could and did get arrested for that. You could get locked up in prison or asylums for that as not only was homosexuality a crime, it was a documented mental illness until the 80s. That just didn't feel real to me. And lastly, I felt we didn't have any of Phryne Fisher's sassy and sexiness of being a bit younger, or Miss Marple's playing everyone to think she's a dear little old lady-ness. Josephine was just a bit middling. But over all, not an unpleasant book to read over Christmas. I saw the second in the series on sale next door to Lexx's work today where a discount book shop has opened up. Maybe when I run out of a few other reads... For more reviews visit http://rusalkii.blogspot.com.au/

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    An Expert in Murder adequately entertained me during several long plane rides, but it wasn't interesting enough to compel me to continue on with the rest of the series. The main characters were rather boring but I liked the period detail as well as the intimate lowdown on the catty, cutthroat London theatre life. I guessed early on who the "bad guy" was but there was a good twist at the end which made it less disappointing. This book reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs series which I also deemed just An Expert in Murder adequately entertained me during several long plane rides, but it wasn't interesting enough to compel me to continue on with the rest of the series. The main characters were rather boring but I liked the period detail as well as the intimate lowdown on the catty, cutthroat London theatre life. I guessed early on who the "bad guy" was but there was a good twist at the end which made it less disappointing. This book reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs series which I also deemed just ok.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009x... Description: March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connecte http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009x... Description: March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connected to her play. "Richard of Bordeaux" has been the surprise hit of the season, with pacifist themes that strike a chord in a world still haunted by war. Now, however, it seems that Tey could become the victim of her own success, as her reputation--and even her life--is put at risk. A second murder confirms Penrose's suspicions that somewhere among this flamboyant theatre set is a ruthless and spiteful killer. Together, Penrose and Tey must confront their own ghosts in search of someone who will stop at nothing. An Expert in Murder is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and a richly atmospheric detective novel in its own right.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Something about the writing style of this book made it difficult for me to follow the plot. Mystery author Josephine Tey plays a role in the mystery although Archie Penrose, the detective, figures more prominently. The mystery set in London's theatrical world focuses on the death of a woman who rode the train with Tey but never made it off. A key figure in the play's production also meets his demise soon afterward. I didn't find the novel very engaging, and I doubt I'll read others in the series Something about the writing style of this book made it difficult for me to follow the plot. Mystery author Josephine Tey plays a role in the mystery although Archie Penrose, the detective, figures more prominently. The mystery set in London's theatrical world focuses on the death of a woman who rode the train with Tey but never made it off. A key figure in the play's production also meets his demise soon afterward. I didn't find the novel very engaging, and I doubt I'll read others in the series. I like Tey's novels, but I'm not a fan of Upson's work.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    Josephine Tey is an author whose all-too-few novels I reread every few years, especially Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair and of course The Daughter of Time. Upson has had the wonderful idea of creating a detective novel in which the central character is Tey herself, with the setting being London's theatreland during the closing weeks of the West End run of her phenomenally successful play Richard of Bordeaux. Tey meets a young fan on the train down from Scotland to London, and almost immediate Josephine Tey is an author whose all-too-few novels I reread every few years, especially Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair and of course The Daughter of Time. Upson has had the wonderful idea of creating a detective novel in which the central character is Tey herself, with the setting being London's theatreland during the closing weeks of the West End run of her phenomenally successful play Richard of Bordeaux. Tey meets a young fan on the train down from Scotland to London, and almost immediately the fan is murdered; Tey helps her old friend Detective Inspector Archie Penrose of the Yard sort out not only this crime but a passel of related ones. The trouble is that if you're going to do this sort of thing properly you need to maintain a certain measure of historical veracity, and this Upson — perhaps in part for legal reasons — clearly feels unable to do. At the time of this novel Tey, whose real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh, hadn't yet invented the Josephine Tey pseudonym; she was writing under the name Gordon Daviot. Yet in the novel everyone seems to think she's called Josephine. This was obviously a deliberate decision on Upson's part, because she explains the facts of the matter (I'd remembered them only dimly) in an Afterword. And then all the actors who played in the real West End run of Richard of Bordeaux have been replaced by fictional ones; would it not have been possible to have adjusted the plot such that Gielgud and the rest were peripheral figures while the actors engaged in yer actual skullduggery (yes, I can understand why you might want to invent these out of whole cloth) were extras or understudies or something? One of the characters murdered is the play's producer, who has to be fictionalized because the real producer lived on long after the play had closed. And so on. In other words, what we have here is a historical novel in which so much of the history has been invented that you can't really call it a historical novel. It's essentially just a confection into which the author has tossed the name Josephine Tey. To be fair, Upson seems to have caught Elizabeth Mackintosh's personality very well; confusion of naming aside, this is definitely the same figure who emerges from everything else I've read about her. And Upson also conveys brilliantly a milieu in which the memory of World War I still squats heavily over everyone's consciousness: none of her characters can really escape those recalled horrors, or the losses of loved ones — especially now that the Nazis are on the rise in Germany. But otherwise the book is a historical jumble. As a detective novel, on the other hand, it functions quite well — although it's maybe a shade longer than it should be. I gather there are more Archie Penrose mysteries on the way, and I'd not be at all surprised if I found myself reading them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    John Frankham

    A 5* when I read this in 2013, my 2018 re-read downgrades it to a 4*. Much to appreciate, but a rather self-conscious first detective novel, over-complicated, with a huge part of the detection coming from a voluntary statement by someone entering the story for that purpose. But, well- written, with an interesting theatre milieu. The GR blurb: 'A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Sc A 5* when I read this in 2013, my 2018 re-read downgrades it to a 4*. Much to appreciate, but a rather self-conscious first detective novel, over-complicated, with a huge part of the detection coming from a voluntary statement by someone entering the story for that purpose. But, well- written, with an interesting theatre milieu. The GR blurb: 'A brilliant and original fiction debut set in the exotic world of 1930s British theatre. March 1934. Revered mystery writer Josephine Tey is traveling from Scotland to London for the final week of her celebrated play "Richard of Bordeaux," But joy turns to horror when her arrival coincides with the murder of a young woman she had befriended on the train ride, and Tey quickly finds herself plunged into a mystery as puzzling as any of those in her own works. Detective Inspector Archie Penrose is convinced that the killing is connected to her play. "Richard of Bordeaux" has been the surprise hit of the season, with pacifist themes that strike a chord in a world still haunted by war. Now, however, it seems that Tey could become the victim of her own success, as her reputation--and even her life--is put at risk. A second murder confirms Penrose's suspicions that somewhere among this flamboyant theatre set is a ruthless and spiteful killer. Together, Penrose and Tey must confront their own ghosts in search of someone who will stop at nothing. An Expert in Murder is both a tribute to one of the most enduringly popular writers of crime and a richly atmospheric detective novel in its own right.'

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This book takes as a protagonist the real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. Tey was also a playwright, and the book begins with her train journey from her home in Scotland to watch the closing performances in a long and successful run of her play Richard of Bordeaux . On the train she meets and befriends an enthusiastic young fan of the play, Elspeth Simmons, and offers to meet her at the stage door and show her round. However, Elspeth never makes it to the play - going back for a forgotten bag, This book takes as a protagonist the real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. Tey was also a playwright, and the book begins with her train journey from her home in Scotland to watch the closing performances in a long and successful run of her play Richard of Bordeaux . On the train she meets and befriends an enthusiastic young fan of the play, Elspeth Simmons, and offers to meet her at the stage door and show her round. However, Elspeth never makes it to the play - going back for a forgotten bag, she is murdered in the train compartment. Tey and her close friend Archie Penrose of Scotland Yard find themselves part of a murder mystery centred on the London theatrical scene. After a promising beginning, I found the plot slowed down considerably and didn't pick up till about half way through. The character development was good, so there was never any confusion about which actor was which, and the tensions and rivalries between them was interesting and realistic. There was also a lot of background about the London theatres and theatrical life, but the novel itself was lacking drama for me and I almost gave up. Luckily a further dramatic event at the half way point reignited my interest and from then on I really enjoyed the investigation with its twists and turns. The relationship between Tey and Archie developed alongside this, and there were plenty of teasers and red herrings to think about in both plot lines. I would read other books from this series as I liked the characters and the clever plot, just need to be prepared for a slow burn start.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I loved the idea of a murder starring Josephine Tey as a character; so many meta layers, but the book itself was confusing and suffered from a plethora of POVs. Many of the sudden shifts could've been eliminated. The large cast left me struggling to follow what was going on and the motivation behind the deaths seemed implausible. The villain was just too awful to be credible. I did enjoy the m/m, f/f element which was interesting to see in a book like this and I liked the depiction of London, but I loved the idea of a murder starring Josephine Tey as a character; so many meta layers, but the book itself was confusing and suffered from a plethora of POVs. Many of the sudden shifts could've been eliminated. The large cast left me struggling to follow what was going on and the motivation behind the deaths seemed implausible. The villain was just too awful to be credible. I did enjoy the m/m, f/f element which was interesting to see in a book like this and I liked the depiction of London, but the book needed tighter editing, I think.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bev

    Love this era and Upson does a great job evoking the time period as well as crafting a very smart mystery. The only thing I didn't like was that I really loved the first character to be murdered. She was so finely drawn in the short span of the book that she appeared in that I wanted to see her develop. Didn't get the chance.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Margareth8537

    Very much enjoyed this first of a series, and as I am late in finding them I have a few to catch up.

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