2016: 57-58. Two by Tey

“It was four o’clock of a spring evening; and Robert Blair was thinking of going home.”

The Franchise Affair, Josephine Tey

Josphine Tey, the pen name of Elizabeth Mckintosh, was a Golden Age mystery writer, a contemporary of Sayers, Christie, and Marsh, those less known, perhaps because she died younger, or perhaps because her mysteries are really more novels with mystery elements than straight up detective novels (which is to say, she doesn’t really play fair with the clues).  But they are well-written and entertaining, and if you run out of the Queens of the Golden Age, you might do worse than add her on.

I’d read three of her books previously, The Daughter of Time, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Man in the Queue, and when I was loooking at the Thirkells, these two caught my eye.  This novel is about Robert Blair, a middle aged self satisfied small town solicitor, who gets pulled into a remarkable situation.  A woman he doesn’t know calls him and begs him to come to her house, where the police are accusing her of a crime. After trying to pass her off on a criminal lawyer, he arrives, only to find a most extraordinary story.  A young girl has accused the middle aged woman and her mother of kiddnapping her, beating her, and forcing her to act as a maid.  The ladies deny it, but the damage is done - the story gets out, they are harrassed by townspeople and eventually charged with a crime.  Blair knows they are innocent, but how to prove it (the facts look grim)? A fun little mystery for sure.

"Grant paused with his foot on the lowest step, and listened to the shrieking from the floor above.”

To Love and Be Wise, Josephine Tey

This book involves Tey’s occasional detective, Alan Grant, who is called upon to solve the disapperance of famous photographer Leslie Searle, who has shown up in the town of Salcott St Mary, on a loose acquaintance (he knew a mutual friend of the big family in town), but soon finds himself entrenched in life there.  One day he and a writer, Walter Whitmore, are camping out working on a book together and Searle just up and is gone.  Was he murdered? Accidentally drowned? Or did he disappear on his own purposes?  Grant is maddened by the case, until (duh) he solves it.

A bit about the solution.  It turns on a subject that is handled quite differently today from when the book was written, but manages, in that context to be surprisingly more sensitive than I had expected.  More, say that, Ruth Rendell, who addresses this topic in From Doon to Death, one of her early books. Don’t want to say more, to spoil the ending, but I was surprised by the delicacy.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017