Comments (11)Add a Comment
20 out of 20 stars
Originally published in 1948 (republished in 1981) Stephanie Tey (AKA Gordon Daviot and born Elizabeth MacKintosh) takes swipes at physiognomy, the pseudo-science of ascribing characteristics of personality or morality based on facial features, and the myth genteel poverty. Although Robert Blair, respected senior partner and third or fourth generation of a country law firm, tries not to get caught up in a mystery, tries to ignore superstitions like witchcraft and racist/classist nonsense like physiognomy, and the allure of a knight in shining armor fairy-tale rescue of a damsel in distress, he is swept into all of them.
Widely praised and thoroughly loved back in 1948, this is still a compelling tale and a look back at a time when tabloid reporting was just beginning to ruin lives and reputations, lawyers were still basically decent people trying to do the right thing, and the police and Scotland Yard were limited in what they could accomplish before the introduction of CCTV, CSI teams, computers, and (thank goodness) cell phones.
Highly recommended for a break from high tech crime stories and graphic sex scenes of most romance books. You don’t even need to like crime, detective, or romance to enjoy this story—although it does help if you are interested in how the world worked before AI ruled the world. A must read for any literature major.
Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane.
Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison – the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks. These sounded remarkably like The Franchise; yet, Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month!
Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.
(Description, slightly edited, taken from library catalog.)
This is an unusual crime novel in that there is no murder, just lies and deceptions. (It's based on a true story.)
In truth, this is an amateur detective story, since Inspector Alan Grant hardly makes an appearance, and I dislike amateur detective solving almost as much as I dislike psychological crime novels. It doesn't help that almost all the characters are uninteresting and unsympathetic.
Why then am I giving this a four-star rating? Despite my problems with the story and the characters, it is, I think, very well written. I know that seems quite paradoxical, but there you have it.
Exquisite writer! I would like to read all her books. She wrote beautifully and thoughtfully. Each sentence is well-executed. She leads me through characters, plots, stories smoothly and captivatingly. What a joy to read!
One of my favourite authors!
Inspector Grant, also featured in Tey's other mystery novels, and local solicitor Robert Blair work together to determine if Mrs Sharpe and her daughter Marion have kidnapped local girl Betty. We believe their innocence then maybe we don't. There are uncertainties.
But it's not just about the story line. It's the amazing writing, the character development, the use of language.
Unfortunately Josephine Tey (Elizabeth MacKintosh) left us with just 5 mystery novels. They are all wonderful literary works to savour repeatedly.
I enjoyed The Franchise Affair from the first to the last page; I was disappointed it ended! Very well written—unlike more modern books. In the middle of the book I was struck by the feeling that Miss Sharpe is Tey’s alter ego. No, not physically, exactly; just look at a picture of Tey and you will realize she would never live up to Marion’s mysterious beauty. Although Tey had a narrow face, just like her description of Marion’s, there the physical similarities ends. Yet, for some reason, I find Marion too much a “real human being” and wonder if Tey didn't transfer her personality to the character… Mrs. Sharpe was my favorite character, though. Her bluntness, straightforwardness reminds me a lot of someone I know quite well: myself! :-) Miss Tey's ideas on penal servitude (expressed through Robert's ruminations about lawyer Kevin McDermott's opinion) would most definitely not make her popular among the modern "learned" crowds... Anyway, this is an incredibly good, well written, well-thought book. Worth your time. I am looking forward to her other books.
Having discovered her books, and her writing style; cannot think of reading anyone else right now but Josephine Tey!
Great suggestion for Book Club members. Readtoday
Greatly enjoyed this book. Characters and storyline not dated but as relevant today as when it was written. Keeps the brain cells going till the end. Loved the characters. I highly recommend it.
21 May 2012
Written 70 years ago - with characters that keep entertaining.
It's the language and flow that is without peer.
The antagonist is just fascinating.
Tell your friends.
Awesome. As usual, Tey is absolutely brilliant. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend :)