Fear in The Sunlight is Nicola Upton’s fourth novel in her mystery series featuring Josephine Tey, the pseudonym of famed mystery writer Elizabeth McCammon. When it opens, the Tey has recently died from cancer, and her good friend Chief Detective Archie Penrose, still in the midst of his grief, is asked to reexamine a series of gruesome murders that took place when he, Josephine and some friends were vacationing in celebration of Josephine’s birthday on Portmeiron Island nearly two decades before. It seems there may be a connections currently discovered on a film set in the United States.
By rights, I should not have liked this novel as much as I did, and it speaks to the skill of the author that I read it every chance I got. There are many characters and plot lines, some of which are continued from previous books. It wasn’t clear from the beginning that this book was part of a series. I thought it would be more of a standalone. While my reading would have been more enhanced had I read the previous books, it wasn’t necessary. Upson takes her time getting to her murder and subsequent whodunit, but I never felt as if it were time wasted. Her characters have back stories, motivation and fears that are slowly revealed as they interact with each other, and where it could have been easy to get lost among all of them, I was intrigued by how they fit together.
Upson seems to have done a lot of research on her historical figures and Tey, Hitchcock and his wife, Alma are illuminated through their relationships with their friends and each other, as well as those moments in the story when they are contemplative and alone. Her narrative is imbued with details of the 1930s – the way they dressed, talked and considered their careers. The murder was almost incidental to this cleverly staged and thought provoking mystery that was just as much a study of the individual in a group setting as anything else. Recommended.