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Josephine Tey’s mysteries

Posted on Friday, February 6, 2015 in Books, Mystery/Cop, Reviews

After reading Josephine Tey’s mysteries, I thought I’d post some of my thoughts about them.

First the positives:

They’re free.
They’re very well written in general.
They’re really good mysteries.
The minor characters are mostly nice and interesting.
To me, they’re historic, though I know the author wrote and published them in her ‘present’.

What I had a bit of trouble with:

In my opinion, the ‘sleuth’ Alan Grant, is a tiresome, annoying condescending pretentious snob. He’s terrfied of falling for some woman and ending up getting married.

In fact, most of the characters seem to be a bit bisexual, or maybe it’s just my fan fiction/slash-tainted mind that sees them that way, but that wasn’t meant to be a negative, it’s just connected to Grant’s fear of falling in love (and being lost to crime-solving). Actually, it feels quite modern.

I won’t go into any more about the negatives, because they’re very few and I did like the books. It’s obvious that they’re of far higher quality than most internet freebies.

Some of the books are standalones, others are part of a series about Alan Grant, apparently one of Scotland Yard’s finest (and he’d be the first to agree with that). As far as mystery solving talents go, I agree too. He is brilliant.

In one of the books, The Daughter of Time, Grant’s hospitalized and going stir crazy with boredom. With a little help from his best buddy (faghag?) actress Marta Hallam, he finds a historic mystery to solve. (“Did Richard III kill his little nephews?”). It’s probably the best of the books (or maybe The Singing Sands is or – actually I’m not sure – most of them are really good). The title isn’t explained in the book, so obviously Josephine Tey expected her readers to be as edcuated as she was. Is the meaning clear to most people? I didn’t know what it was referring to, until after quite a bit of research, I ended up finding the explanation in a review on Goodreads. The Daughter of Time, apparently, is Truth, rather than Duty. I’m sure that makes sense as far as history is concerned but I’m not sure if it helps with murder cases. Not in real life. Agatha Christie makes the same claim in The Mysterious Mr Quin (that murder cases can become easier to solve after some time has passed), and it certainly works in her book.

One of the books had a rather unusual (for the time) twist at the end, but I won’t go into that because I don’t want to spoil it for any future readers).

I must say Miss Pym Disposes is probably the one I like the least. It’s about a former teacher, turned best-selling author (a bit like Josephine Tey herself, apparently) who is invited to a girls’ school by an old friend from her own school days. She ends up staying much longer than she’d intended and finds herself fascinated by the students. This book is as well written as the others, but ultimately it ends up being about Miss Pym thinking she can make a life-or-death decision that affects many people and failing because she didn’t have all the facts and that pretty much ruins it at the end.

More than one of these books have been turned into movies and tv series. In fact, I seem to have seen at least one movie and one tv series, not knowing they were based on Josephine Tey’s books. I hardly remembered the movie (Young and Innocent) so that story wasn’t spoiled for me, but I turned out to remember more about the tv series (The Franchise Affair), so that book was pretty much spoiled for me, in the sense that I knew where it was heading right from the start. Strangely enough, that didn’t ruin the story for me, since it was fascinating to follow it anyway.

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