Nine Lessons: A Josephine Tey Mystery

Written by Nicola Upson
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

In Nine Lessons, Nicola Upson serves up multiple murders, romances on the rocks and a horrible act occurring years ago at the heart of it all. Set in the 1930s in England, the mystery begins when Detective Archie Penrose is called to a local churchyard where he must investigate one of the most horrid murders of his career. A man has been buried alive. Penrose doesn’t know that this is only the beginning.

Meanwhile, Josephine Tey has settled in Cambridge. A series of rapes terrorizes that quiet community. Everyone is scared, as the violence in the attacks increases with each victim.

When a second murder is discovered, the trail leads to King’s College, where Penrose and Tey continue their long-term friendship. Penrose enlists Tey’s help in researching the choral society at King’s College from 25 years back. Ghost stories, copy-cat murders and a horrendous act involving students and a young girl combine to create a riveting mystery.

As a sideline, Penrose’s personal life is rocky, and he is in for the surprise of his life from his girlfriend, Brigette. Tey also has relationship troubles as her significant other has hopped across the pond to pursue theatrical dreams, and Tey must decide if the relationship is important enough for her to travel to New York

The writing is crisp and sharp, with the authentic feel of England lending credence to the tale. The plot twists and turns like a whirly-gig, taking the reader for an enjoyable ride. Heartily recommended.