A frank faction

Fear in the Sunlight, by Nicola Upson, Faber, RRP£12.99, 432 pages

“Faction”, the art of weaving fictitious stories around real figures, is tricky to pull off, but it helps if your main character hides a genuine mystery. Writer Kathleen Tynan successfully created a murder plot to explain the 11 absent days in Agatha Christie’s life, and Nicola Upson has a bigger field to play in; she’s using Josephine Tey, the pseudonym of the self-effacing Scottish writer Elizabeth Mackintosh, as her investigator.

In this fourth outing, Tey arrives in a suitably artificial setting, the Welsh village of Portmeirion, for her 40th birthday celebrations. Here she meets Alfred Hitchcock, who is about to adapt her novel, A Shilling for Candles. But even the film director’s famously cruel pranks pale against the series of grisly murders that follow.

Upson legitimately uses the writer as an avatar to meld a golden-age plot with modern frankness, and Tey’s creative process mirrors her own concerns about blurring fact and fiction. A smart, playful pleasure in an increasingly adventurous series.

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