It is summer 1936, and in the resort village of Portmeirion in Wales, Alfred Hitchcock has called together film stars and production crew to commence work on a new project of his. So begins Nicola Upson’s latest novel, Fear in the Sunlight. The cast is varied – there are household names mixing with up-and-coming starlets, wannabes and washed-up has-beens, as well as all the hangers-on and behind-the-scenes folk who make things work.
The setting is superbly evocative, the village of Portmeirion being the first of its kind – constructed solely as a playground for holiday-makers with no industry outside of tourism. Each building was designed from the ground up by the village’s architect and there are interesting perspectives and tricks of light and sound that the guests can be amused by. And it is isolated – accessible by one road, or by boat. For two of the guests this village seems an excellent setting for more grim activities as detective Archie Penrose and mystery writer Josephine Tey come to discover.
As first one, then another of the guests is found brutally and gruesomely murdered, Joesphine and Archie must put their skills together to find the killer before he or she strikes again. The killer must be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s guests, or the village staff and suspicions escalate rapidly as old hatreds, slights or hidden pasts are brought into the daylight. And each guest feels the tension, as if there are unseen watchers scrutinising their every move.
While known for his whimsy, could Hitchcock really have brought all these people together to situate a murder? Or is he merely, and sensationally, making a casting selection from these guests based on how they handle this environment? Could it be manufactured? Josephine and Archie cannot take that risk and so they devote their energies to finding a solution before it is too late.
This is a capital mystery and brings Josephine Tey back to us in a delightful – if unusual – setting. Can’t wait to see what comes next for her!
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