Nicola Upson’s series featuring Josephine Tey has long been a favorite of Auntie M’s, earning her carefully chosen “highly recommended” rating in each previous novel. In London Rain, Upson brings Tey to London during the glorious Coronation ceremonies of George VI after the agony of the abdication of Edward VIII, yet all of the glitter and pageantry becomes secondary to the murder of one of the BBC’s best-known broadcasters.
Josephine is in London for a BBC radio program of her play Queen of Scots, but she’s not immune to the atmosphere at Broadcasting House, the modern bastion that houses the BBC’s offices and studios. The cool, austere building reflects the icy demeanor inside, ripe with petty jealousies, adultery and enough emotion to make itself known to the sensitive Tey.
Some of the gossip makes Josephine acutely aware of her own personal situation and she resolves to define her relationship better with her partner, Marta, a sensitive topic at the best of times. She’s aware that the atmosphere is controlled by Julian Terry, fellow detective novelist and now the BBC’s director of her play. His brother, John, has a lead role in Tey’s play, yet it’s Lydia Beaumont, who Josephine originally wrote the play for, who has been demoted in the radio play to a minor role, a situation that will add to the strain of the women’s relationship with Marta.
Josepine meets Vivienne Bereford, too, acting editor of the popular publication Radio Times; her husband Anthony Beresford is one of the BBC’s top radio broadcasters. Viv’s sister, Olivia Hanlon, was the owner of a sketchy Soho club, and her drowning death ten years ago is still talked about in some circles with suspicion. But that is the old news; the newer is that Anthony Beresford is having an affair with the actress Millicent Grey, who is playing the Queen in Josephine’s play.
Bereford’s murder is no surprise to readers. When Tey’s friend DCI Archie Penrose is called in to head the case, he finds the politics of the place get in his way. With the Coronation as the backdrop, there will be heightened security, the heady trappings of the event, and the major influx of people into London–all of which frustrate Archie’s investigation.
Josephine and even Marta will become involved in helping him sort out the secrets that have led to this murder, leaving Josephine to wonder about her recklessness in the situation and the guilt it leave her with when there’s an unexpected ending twist–and even more of a twist for Archie.
This is Upson’s sixth Tey novel, and it won’t disappoint, both in its characterizations and in the plotting of a terrific mystery. The period details are perfectly done and provide a lovely backdrop to a literate and well-written story. Highly recommended.