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Books of Josephine Tey

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The Daughter of Time was the first book I read by Josephine Tey, and is still my favourite.

 

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland yard is confined to a hospital bed, and being an active man the enforced immobility chafes. He is challenged to use his intellect to occupy himself, and becomes intrigued by a portrait of King Richard III. Grant thinks Richard has too sensitive a face to have been responsible for killing the Princes in the Tower, and with a friend to help with the research, sets out to 'prove' that Richard is innocent.

 

Although Grant's initial premise, that Richard doesn't look like a murderer, is rather dated (the book was published in 1951), the arguments he sets out (or rather that the author sets out) in his 'evidence' to support the case for Richard's innocence is convincing.

 

I recommend this book both as a mystery novel, but also as a lightly presented piece of historical research.

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This was one of the first things I read about Richard. It is a VERY good book. I've since read much more about him fact and fiction (including Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour) and am firmly of the opinion Richard was a good guy.

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In one of those quirks of coincidence, I note that a dramatised version of this book is going out on BBC7. It began on Monday this week - so still all available on 'Listen Again' from the website. ;)

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Isn't The Daughter of Time the book Colin Dexter was accused of plagiarising when he wrote the Inspector Morse novel The Wench is Dead?

 

(Actually I'm being disingenuous here - it was indeed that book.)

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Guest Colyngbourne

The Daughter of Time was actually my second Tey novel after we read Brat Farrar in my first or second year at secondary school. BF too has a Ricardian theme in that Tey explores ideas of what might have become of missing princes in a modern family setting.

 

As pure detective fiction and without her Ricardian hat on, The Franchise Affair is a superb country house + trial style mystery (and to continue the theme of "similarities to other books", there are various elements and passages in Jilly Cooper's Prudence that owe a debt to The Franchise Affair...).

Grant turns up again in The Singing Sands, although I borrowed that one from a library and have forgotten most of it.

 

My last Tey purchase was Miss Pym Disposes which I think, bored me to tears, but one of these days I might take a look again, just to see what its downfall was.

 

A lesser known work by Tey was the play she wrote about Richard III called Dickon, under the pen-name Gordon Daviot (she also wrote one about RII called Richard of Bordeaux, which fared rather better on the London stage): Dickon has the unfortunate fault of coming across as a rather static pen portrait of Richard III rather than anything that could be acted on a stage, which is nethertheless lovingly written and with some beautifully quotable lines that (for a Ricardian) cut right to the heart of why this king's memory ought to be defended.

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Thanks to Colyngbourne for adding other of Josephine Tey's books to this thread. There were more posts here after November '05, but were lost in The Crash and, sadly, not recovered.

 

The Franchise Affair was the first* that I read. On my look out for another mystery/crime novel, back when that was my primary reading consumption, I recognised the title from the popular film from my childhood.

(Starring the famous pairing of Michael Dennison and Dulcie Gray - and no, I don't expect any of you to recognise the names, I barely remember them myself :rolleyes: ) There have also been two TV adaptations

 

The Franchise Affair is probably Tey's most famous book (unless you are a supporter of Richard III ;)), and is a classic of mid 20th century novels in its genre. It is quite unusual in that it is not about a murder.

 

On the nearest bookshelf I have The Franchise Affair, The Singing Sands and To Love And Be Wise. There are probably others scattered about the house.

 

Must re-read!

* No it wasn't, but it was the one that I first knew about, because of the film

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Forgot to say: Good to have you back with us, Hypnotist.

Thank you. Now, how do I stop getting a pop-up of McKenna's ghastly book appearing when my name is quoted?

 

(Blurb on back of McKenna's book I Can Make You Thin: "If you do what it says in this book I guarantee you will lose weight!"

 

Summary of content of book: "Eat Less".)

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I've just finished The Franchise Affair.

 

First of all I must say that I'd never read any of Josephine Tey's before and wasn't even sure when her books were written. This mystery is very much of its era, British era I should say rather, as compared to the work of Raymond Chandler and other U.S. crime/thriller writers of the 40s.

 

No murder, not a 'police procedural' either, just what was the fifteen-year-old doing while missing from home? We believe along with Robert Blair, the decent country solicitor, that the women at The Franchise are innocent.

 

I found it quite interesting as social history - the attractive and also quite unattractive features of England in 1948. I also couldn't help wondering what readers of Lee Child, for example, would make of descriptions of the afternoon tea-tray with its cloth and neatly arranged biscuits, digestives on certain days and petit-beurres on others!

 

I think I'll read her The Daughter of Time before I make any more final judgment on this author.

 

 

ETA: Very interesting article by Sarah Waters in the review section of the Guardian today (Saturday 30 May 09) .Her current book, The Little Stranger, had its origins in her response to The Franchise Affair, a novel that she says has fascinated and troubled her in equal measure. Amongst other things she picks up, like me, on the social history aspect of the story and notes that for Tey 'Betty Kane represents everything that's wrong with postwar life'. Waters considers the novel 'phobic'.

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Josephine Tey has been made the main character in what is going to be a series of mysteries by Nicola Upson. The first, An Expert In Murder, published last month, is currently the Woman's Hour Drama on Radio4 (daily at 10.45, repeated at 19.45)

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Being a big history buff and having shelves groaning under the weight of such tomes it was probably a mistake on my part to read The Daughter of Time. I think I'll have to try instead the historian Alison Weir's take on the subject in her The Princes in the Tower.

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I have just finished "A Shilling For Candles", the second in Tey's Alan Grant series. Written in the mid-1930s it took me a little while to acclimatise myself to the era, particularly when a character arrived on the scene described as

a small, skinny child of sixteen in shabby tweeds, her dark hair hatless and very untidy.

A little further on this skinny child (now17) was driving around the countryside in her own rattletrap car - but still sufficiently a child to show off the nametape, in the gym knickers she was wearing, to a complete stranger.

In a novel well populated with peripheral characters Erica Burgoyne is the most memorable, and has her own little sleuthing exercise in the middle of the tale to trace a missing piece of evidence.

 

There are plenty of suspects and red-herrings, so that there is a feeling of anticipation through the last few pages . Sadly, I felt that the actual murderer was a disappointing choice, and even more sadly, that the book title promised more than it delivered.

Good fun, but not up to the standard of Inspector Grant's later adventures.

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Published in 1950, To Love and Be Wise came between Tey's two most well known Alan Grant novels, The Franchise Affair and The Daughter of Time and is an intriguing and enjoyable mystery.

Leslie Searle, a young man of strikingly beautiful looks introduces himself into a country village where he has an immediate effect amongst the artistic community which has congregated there. Not all are attracted by his unearthly good looks, some have very strong antagonistic feelings about him.

His friendship with a young woman in the house where he is a guest unsettles her fiancé, but nonetheless the two men embark on a book-writing project, canoeing along the local river and camping out at night.

When Searle vanishes after an apparent disagreement with his companion Alan Grant is called in to investigate.

Did Searle end up in the river? Did he fall, or was he pushed? Did he just walk away? Was it some sort of practical joke?

Inspector Grant works his way through several possible suspects and ends up with a prime suspect, but no evidence.  When he comes to report his conclusions to his senior officer he admits to the opinion that there is some sort of sleight of hand going on, that he has been taken in by smoke and mirrors.

Eventually he realises what he has missed seeing and brings the case to its conclusion.

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I have just finished reading The Man In The Queue, Josephine Tey's second novel, written in the 1920s, and her first Alan Grant mystery.

 

It gave me a few problems at first. Primarily the racist term used for the suspect, which is a common failing of books of that era but also his "methods" of deduction. Just by studying the face of the victim Grant is able to sum up his character, and similarly, by considering the type of crime and the weapon, comes to a conclusion about the race of the proba ble perpetrator.

These same methods are used when Grant examines the portrait of Richard III in The Daughter of Time, but as Grant is bed-bound in that it seems more of an intellectual exercise than here, where it is supposed to be the basis of solving a fresh murder.

 

Luckily the plot of The Man In The Queue was sufficiently intriguing to hold my attention and had me keen to read on and discover how it all fitted together.

 

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The Singing Sands, the last of the Inspector Alan Grant series, published in 1952. I have now read them all.

 

Leaving the overnight sleeper to Scotland after a sleepless night battling with claustraphobia, Inspector Grant sees the attendant roughly  trying to wake a still sleeping passenger.

Grant intervenes, and realises the man is dead. Being 'off duty' he leaves the guard to deal with the matter, but inadvertantly walks away with a newspaper from the compartment. Later he discovers some enigmatic lines of verse that the deceased had apparently scrawled on the newspaper. This is the start of a puzzle - to decipher the meaning of the lines, to find out if the man on the train is who his documents say he is, to find out if his death is the accident the inquest says it was, and if not, to find out who is responsible and why.

The combination of a relaxing fishing holiday and an intriguing puzzle help Grant to unwind and overcome his stress-induced claustraphobia and, of course he finds out the truth in the end.

Although the story was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages, there was much in the writing that I did not enjoy. There was a degree of racism, xenophobia and class snobbery  that I found quite unpleasant - attitudes that I have found in previous Inspector Grant books. They were attitudes which I could just about let pass in something written in the 1920s & 30s, but found much more distasteful in the 1950s.

I am glad this was the last of the series, but wish she had stopped at The Daughter of Time.

 

 

 

 

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