Friday, 29 April 2011

"The Man in the Queue" by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, as to which much ink has been spilt on the pages of book blogs, often gets in the way of understanding that she was also a legitimate Golden Age crinme writer, though nowadays sadly neglected.

In this book her Inspector Grant, one of my favourite fictoinal detectives, faces what appears at first an intractable case. A man is found to have been fatally stabbed while in the queue for theatre tickets. The corpse held upright by the press of bodies, his killer has long since had a chance to slip away, and even the identity of the dead man is not known.

Grant is an intensely credible detective, very much an everday creation, much more of a Wycliff than, say, a Campion or even an Alleyn. Success usually comes as much from dogged police procedural work as it does from Grant's instinctive hunches which, incidentally, he freely admits are usually wrong. The French have a name for this sort of book, a policier, and Simenon's Maigret books are probably the best example.

Though this book was first written as long ago as 1929 it is remarkably undated, and I recommend a perusal of Tey's ouevre to anyone interested in the detective novel as a genre.

Incidentally, even though it is not intended to form any part of the subject of this post, I should state for the record that I personally find The Daughter of Time an excellent book, though I can think instantly of at least one book-blogger who would give me a fierce argument on this!


Karyn said...

Well perhaps not a fierce argument on the merits of The Daughter of Time, more a quiet disagreement. And I'd be interested to find out if there was more than one book blogger to oppose you; it always seems to me that mine is the lone contrary voice as far as that book goes. It seems extensively reviewed and always favourably. But then I am a Statistician - I have an occupational bias against untested hypotheses.

However, I am encouraged to learn that Josephine Tey wrote more conventional detective fiction. I may be tempted to give her another try, provided I can find an edition of one of her books amongst the vintage Penguins.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

This sounds a book I'd like to read.

I agree with you about The Daughter of Time - I loved it. The only other book by Tey that I've read is The Franchise Affair, which is good too (it doesn't feature Inspector Grant, though).

Anonymous said...

I just finished "The Man in the Queue" and am left with a haunting feeling that the solution we are left with at the end of the book is not the true one, and that Inspector Grant knows the true solution, which we should be figuring out. Is this just me or do you feel the same way? [Trying not to say anything here that would count as a spoiler].

I was disappointed in "The Daughter of Time" compared to the more conventional mysteries, mostly because I'd seen enough of the material in a non-fiction context that I felt I was being dragged through it painfully slowly to conclusions I already knew about. Are there other reasons it's criticized?

Pursewarden said...

Gosh, how interesting! No, I didn't get that feeling but you make me want to go back and re-read it.