Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

I've been wanting to read this since I saw it reviewed on another blog (and I've been tearing up the internets trying to find which blog so I can link to it, and it eludes me). I was also gently chastised by my aunt for not liking Tey's Daughter of Time. So I finally got my hands on The Man in the Queue and read it.

It wasn't bad. The prose is often lovely and the plot is mostly good. But the pace is much, much slower than I like, mostly because Tey stops everything to describe surroundings for paragraphs on end, and only stops descriptions to let her characters natter on for sometimes pages about events, repeating herself and repeating herself.

Inspector Grant of the CID is assigned a strange case. A man was standing in line for a popular play where the crowd was shoving along for standing-room-only seats, and when the woman in front of him moved away, he slumped down--dead, with a dagger stuck deep in his back. No one saw the murder happen, no one remembers much about the people who came and went during the long wait. Grant has to follow up the slimmest of clues to get to the truth.

I did like the plot, as I said, but the ending was a let-down. Grant doesn't figure it out at all; the murderer comes in to confess out of the blue, astonishing him. Not a good way to make your sleuth seem intelligent.

The book was first published in 1929 and does have lots of fascinating details of Britain back then. I enjoyed it for that, but I can't say I'm much of a Josephine Tey fan. Her novels fall somewhere between the lively fun of Georgette Heyer and the true literary genius of Dorothy Sayers, and come across (to me) as kind of stodgy.

B&N link

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