Nine Lessons

Nicola Upson

In the years before the Great War, M.R. James told ghost stories by candlelight to a handful of friends and scholars. Now, twenty-five years later, those men are dying, killed off one by one…

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Called to the peaceful wooded churchyard of St-John’s-at-Hampstead, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces one of the most audacious and unusual murders of his career. The case leads Archie to Cambridge, where, coincidentally, his old friend Josephine Tey has recently settled.

Before long, another body is discovered. In the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Archie uncovers a connection twenty-five years old which haunted both victims — as well as some of their living companions. As Archie and Josephine each grapple with savage malefactors intent on making their victims pay, they must race to stop another attack…

Critic Reviews

It takes pluck for a crime writer to put an illustrious predecessor at the centre of her novels. But in choosing to invent an afterlife for real-life author Josephine Tey, one of the crime-writing golden age greats, Nicola Upson rises to the challenge.

Nine Lessons is not for the faint-hearted. Moments of horror make it hard to keep to the page. But with its underlying theme of good intentions having tragic consequences, the story is strong enough to carry us through to a dramatic finale.

If Josephine Tey were alive, she would be the first to welcome a major talent.

Daily Mail
Critic Reviews

Upson expertly pulls off the gothic strands to inject a growing sense of menace and fear...The atmosphere is brilliantly created with the political climate overshadowed by the spread of fascism, the echoes of the abdication of the king the year before, (Penrose guarded Wallis Simpson in Suffolk while she waited for her divorce), and the menacing approach of another world war.

Crime Fiction Lover
Critic Reviews

A superior crime novel, with Upson perceptive on the place of women in unenlightened 1930s England.

Financial Times
Critic Reviews

Upson's novels are always wonderfully evocative of the time period in which they are set . . . Perfect for lovers of classic crime with a contemporary twist.

Shiny New Books
Critic Reviews

‘Nine Lessons is not for the faint-hearted… Upson’s subtle hand juxtaposes an elegantly descriptive narrative with a thrilling thread of simmering menace, dark, disturbing plot lines and grisly murders that will make your blood run cold. Josephine and the immensely likeable Archie face very personal dilemmas in this gripping, haunting mystery which needs no reference to earlier Josephine Tey novels but is so clever and compelling that satisfied customers will be eager to seek out and devour all the back titles.’

Lancashire Post
Critic Reviews

‘Even without knowledge of the first six books in the series, it is clear that Upson has taken the air of mystery that surrounds Tey’s private life and blended it smoothly with the few facts available to create a plausible and complex heroine. The blanks of Tey’s life – friends, lovers etc- are filled in with fiction but it’s plausible fiction and I felt like the woman coming across in ‘Nine Lessons’ really could be the woman who wrote the golden age classics that I’ve so enjoyed. Upson’s Tey comes across as clever, passionate and sensitive. [...] Overall this was a cleverly plotted, compelling mystery novel.’

The Shelf of Unread Books

Nicola Upson’s debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels whose main character is Josephine Tey, who – along with Agatha Christie – was one of the masters of Britain’s Golden Age of crime writing. She was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger in 2018 for Nine Lessons and longlisted in 2021 for…

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Portrait of crime writer Nicola Upson