Faber £12.99

Fear in the Sunlight, By Nicola Upson

At home with the Hitchcocks

Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey mysteries are a class above the usual crime fiction. They shimmer with a love for their prewar setting and the artistic circles Tey, a real-life detective novelist, frequented. Her choice of sleuth was a masterstroke of literary theft: Tey was a shadowy, stubbornly private writer. Like Georgette Heyer, she shunned the celebrity trappings enjoyed by their contemporary, Agatha Christie. As a result she was ripe for imaginative speculation, of which Upson has plenty.

The fourth in the series, Fear in the Sunlight, finds Tey at odds with two more real-life merchants of murder: Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma. Hitchcock invites Tey to a weekend party in the Welsh coastal village of Portmeirion in the summer of 1936, to negotiate the rights to her novel A Shilling for Candles. Also present are a cast of matinee idols, starlets, bitter hotel staff and ambitious studio crew. Each has a forced perspective to rival the architectural oddities peppering the hamlet. When one of the guests is found slashed to death there are more suspects circling than seagulls.

The Thirties calm, with the hangover of the Great War still lingering and the storm clouds gathering once again, makes for a portentous period for a murder story. "Normal is one of the casualties of our generation," declares Josephine. And what better setting than Sir Clough Williams-Ellis's wondrous folly: a village of varyingly scaled cottages, bell towers and villas built in the style of Portofino. While its Mediterranean hues, winding alleys and carefully curated vistas were made famous as the backdrop to the psychedelic series The Prisoner, Upson draws out a more sedate atmosphere of prewar sanctuary, a bolt hole for creative types to kick back with a gin and tonic.

Upson conjures up Hitchcock's dark genius beautifully. Consider his musings as he sits on his balcony: "The tide goes out so quickly once it starts. Imagine the water receding to reveal a body lying on the beach, a woman in a swimming costume, her white bathing cap picked out in the sun. There's a belt next to her, curling snakelike in the sand as the last of the water drains away – and we know immediately that it's been used to strangle her." It's vintage, bombastic, visually arresting Hitch.

Upson has researched her heroine, anti-hero, cameo parts, and stage with aplomb to create a novel that charms until the dagger strikes and then, as Hitchcock once explained, it provides the public with beneficial shocks.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week