08 January, 2013

New to me; good for me

Josephine Tey

Though i have come across her name many times before, this was the first of Josephine Tey's books that i remember reading. I'm glad now that i bought a collection of them, and i will likely read the next within a couple of months. That statement alone makes this book a success for me; why have i made it, then?

First, perhaps, is the detective. I'm sure that Tey was not the first author to have a successful detective from Scotland Yard; i'm also sure that she was one of the earliest to show them as not bumbling and needing guidance from an amateur. Inspector Grant is likeable as well as clever, but not so given to leaps of deduction that the rest of us can't follow him; indeed, the man he chases from London to the Highlands turns out not to have quite the connexion with the murder that Grant at first thought.

Second, i think, is the action. That trip to the Highlands is done very well, with interesting characters introduced but, with one exception, not so interesting that they become compelling and require further information for the reader, which is a mistake that many authors make, leaving their readers waiting for more appearances of a character they have invested in unnecessarily. In addition, the murder itself is clever and well done; we all like to think we'd be able to be observant were something of the kind to happen near us, but here the people in closest proximity to the victim, in a tight queue, are hopeless and almost useless to Grant.

Third, Tey does a lovely job with the red herrings she draws across the track for her readers ~ and for Grant. They are plausible, at least at first sight, and sufficiently unlikeable to attract attention. Quite clearly, though, Tey has been laughing up her sleeve at her readers the whole time she writes of them, and this becomes clear at the end as all is revealed. In fact, i only have one quibble with the book, a minor one, almost a red herring in itself, and that is the question of whether it is possible to make a brooch with a pair of letters in such a way that their order cannot be determined; i have had trouble visualising it, other than actually putting the two on top of each other, which i suspect would render them completely illegible made, as they are, of stones ~ it might work in print or handwriting, but in jewellery i suspect not.

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