Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Teys.

Josephine Tey (AKA Elizabeth Mackintosh) wrote eight books, all of which are just fabulous. I'm unable to pick a favorite, they are all so good and different in their own ways.

The Man in the Queue, her first novel, starts with a killing more mysterious than a locked-room killing. A man is stabbed to death while waiting in line for theatre tickets and, though hundreds of people were around him, no one saw a thing. What follows is a police procedural as fun and well-paced as a vintage episode of Law & Order. Which, if you think about the fact that The Man in the Queue was written in '29, is pretty fireplacing amazing.

I'm not going to talk about A Shilling for Candles because, well, it's her weakest book, and I've only read it twice. Don't start with this one.

My copy of Miss Pym Disposes is falling apart because I've read it so often. Miss Pym has written a very popular book on psychology and has been invited by an old school chum to speak at a women's physical education and physical therapy college. Planning to stay only one night, she finds herself drawn in to the college, covering for a professor on leave, and so is present when one of the students is killed. I love this book. I love Miss Pym. I love the students. I love the other teachers. Tey writes these characters so that they live and breathe.

The Franchise Affair. 'Nuff said.

Brat Farrar. Oh My God. This is just an amazing book. Brat is hailed on the street by a man who has mistaken him for someone else, whom he looks enough alike to be twins. It so happens that the man he looks like lost a twin (probably through suicide, but they never found the body) several years before, and he's very very rich. The lost twin was the elder...can Brat take his place? Even though I know all the twists by heart, I love re-reading this book. LOVE. The by-play, the characters. And you fall in love with Brat, with his sense of adventure and his coming to champion the twin whose place he's taking. READ THIS BOOK.

To Love and Be Wise. A famous radio journalist goes on a trek with a famous artist. The painter disappears. The journalist is suspected. These bare bones become nicely fleshed out under Tey's handling. F'rinstance, one clue that puzzles Inspector Alan Grant is that there is something missing from the artist's paint box. What was it? What would have that size and shape? This is just a lovely book.

The Daughter of Time. Inspector Alan Grant is sick in the hospital, and his friend brings him portraits of famous criminals of history. One face stands out to him as being wrong for the crime he was accused of. And thus Inspector Alan Grant sets out to prove that King Richard the Third did NOT kill the princes in the tower. In this book, Alan Grant, like Nero Wolfe, has all the information brought to him, because he can't leave his bed. Delicious.

The Singing Sands. I'll talk about this one more tomorrow!


Genevieve said...

Loving reading this!!
I actually like Shilling For Candles, because of the characters (especially Erica). But I agree it's one of the weaker ones. That and The Man In The Queue (much though I like it in general) have the weakest mystery solutions, I think.

I didn't like The Singing Sands much at first, but it definitely grew on me.

Genevieve said...

Hey, do you know any biographical information about her? I could find very very little the last time I looked.

liz said...

Only what I found on Wikipedia. If I still had my Huban, I'd have more.

Songbird said...

I think I've only read Daughter of Time, though Brat Farrar sounds vaguely familiar, too.

Madeleine said...

I read Brat Farrar and the Franchise Affair on your recommendation last time it came up, and the last two when I was youngish. So it looks like I'll need Miss Pym and To Love and Be Wise as soon as I work through the row of A. McCall Smith I have out from the library now.

Magpie said...

I love The Daughter Of Time - one great book.

I've never read Miss Pym - I should...

The Singing Sands I've never heard of, but do you know The Riddle of The Sands? Awesome book.