Book review: Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson.

THE first chapter of this book is one of the most powerful pieces of literature in the English language.

THE first chapter of this book is one of the most powerful pieces of literature in the English language.

We may know how terrible it is to hang a woman, but here is what it feels like.

This is Nicola Upson’s third who-dun-it set in London in the 1930s.

Her heroine, the real-life novelist and playwright, Josephine Tey, a sell-out success of the period, is trying to write a book about two women hanged at Holloway 1903 for “baby farming”. Newly delivered mothers paid the women to place their children for adoption. There were no adoptive parents. The babies were murdered.

This is a layered book, as Josephine investigates the lives of the two hanged women, a generation on, bizarre new killings take place around her.

In the world of 1930s theatre, where the Motley sisters have a factory off St Martin’s Lane making costumes, where Noel Coward appears at a charity gala to help orphans, Josephine and her friend, Detective Archie Penrose try to solve the murders of 30 years earlier and the killings happening almost in front of their eyes.

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Upson’s style is compelling, meticulously researched and immaculately written. She creates a world you enter through her pages and are reluctant to leave at the end.

ANGELA SINGER

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