Golden age mystery author Josephine Tey (the pen name of Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scot) makes her second appearance as a detective in Nicola Upson's Angel with Two Faces.
What do you find so interesting about Tey?
The originality of her work. I read The Franchise Affair about 15 years ago, and thought it was very different from most golden age fiction. I loved its rich characterization, its sense of place, and the modern voice that spoke out from the book. I was really intrigued to find that the few facts that seemed to be known about her life didn't match up with the voice that comes through in her fiction.
Why is she less well known than Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers?
Her output is comparatively small. She didn't write puzzles because that wasn't really what interested her as a novelist. What fascinated her more was how people related to each other and the world they lived in. Her detective, Alan Grant, is a forerunner of modern detectives like P.D. James's Dalgliesh, a much more realistic creation than Poirot or Wimsey.
Why portray her as a sleuth?
The books started out as a straight biography, but there came a point when the gaps in her life were more intriguing than the facts. One day, when I'd hit another brick wall, my partner turned round and said, "Oh, for goodness sake, make it up!" It seemed sensible to put Tey in the detective genre for which we know her best today. Her contribution to the solving of the crimes is that of an outsider observing a community, someone who has an empathy with the other characters and who gets to know the secrets that way. Telling this complex woman's story over a period of time, allowing her to change and develop in response to the people she meets along the way, feels more truthful to me now than the straightforward biography I originally set out to write. Ironically, the less I worry about making the character an accurate portrayal of the real woman, the more authentic she becomes.
Is Angel based on a Tey work?
The premise is that Tey is just starting to write her second mystery novel, so the book plays with some of the themes, characters, and references in A Shilling for Candles. Hopefully, people who know Tey's work well will have fun spotting some of those allusions. In its setting of a country estate and in the importance horses have in the book, it has a lot in common with another Tey novel, Brat Farrar.