And I thought The Daughter of Time was Josephine Tey’s only book.
What’s more, I thought it was the only book starring Inspector Alan Grant.
I was happily wrong, hence this book review. Enjoy. 🙂
The Man In The Queue
A long line had formed for the standing-room-only section of the Woffington Theatre. London’s favorite musical comedy of the past two years was finishing its run at the end of the week. Suddenly, the line began to move, forming a wedge before the open doors as hopeful theatergoers nudged their way forward. But one man, his head sunk down upon his chest, slowly sand to his knees and then, still more slowly, keeled over on his face. Thinking he had fainted, a spectator moved to help, but recoiled in horror from what lay before him: the man in the queue had a small silver dagger neatly plunged into his back.
With the wit and guile that have made Alan Grant a favorite of mystery fans, the inspector sets about discovering just how a murder occurred among so many witnesses, none of whom saw a thing.
-from the back of the book
What I thought:
Okay, first of all, Inspector Grant is completely awesome. The author did an amazing job with his characterization. He’s not aloof and prideful like other “Private Eye” characters. He’s human. He has a sense of humor, likes and dislikes certain things and has people he enjoys being around.
And, for readability, his thought process was great.
I really like logic. Creative problem solving and finding solutions to things. Coming to logical conclusions from the facts and going from there.
And what was great was that Grant’s thought process became mine. I drew the same conclusions from the same clues and suspected the same people he did. I was frustrated, happy or confused at the same times he was. Never once did I think “Well, that’s dumb. If I was him I would have gone and done (such and such)”. Grant did the exact same things I would have done if I were in his shoes.
So, that was pretty much my highlight.
Other good things were there as well of course.
The author didn’t write like she thought her readers were stupid.
I can’t express enough how much I loved this. She gives you room to pick up on subtleties on your own. The jokes aren’t shoved in your face. You can take mental note of something without being told to, wonderful little things like that.
Alright, but all that stuff can be applied to pretty much any Alan Grant book of hers.
On to the plot itself.
Overall, very well paced and more plot-twisty than I expected. Clues were poked in at good enough intervals for you to think through the last one before moving on. And how hopeless the case is at first… I mean, seriously.
So, you have this guy. No ID, no one seems to know him at all. No one saw the murderer, and the fingerprints on the clues (where there are some) aren’t even on file at the Scotland Yard. And no one even saw the murderer.
It reminded me of a little “take apart the pieces and see how it all works” puzzle. Most of those feel hopelessly stuck together to begin with, then stuff starts to move in ways you didn’t expect it to.
And the good characterization didn’t just stay with Grant. Tey was amazing at all the witnesses, the whole police force and even side characters. The one that comes to mind is a gang leader, Danny, that Grant interrogates. It’s not the clichéd:
“Oh, you fiend! Don’t try to hide it, I can see on your evil little face that you’re guilty!”
“Well, you have no proof so, mwahaha! My plan is working! I’m such an evil mastermind!”
It was an actual, human conversation. They talked to each other like people. There was a mutual distrust, naturally, but I could see the conversation easily in my mind.
As for as the conclusion, I definitely didn’t see it coming. There was one important clue that I kept in the back of my mind that came back to wrap everything up, and I was happy about that. But it was definitely not in the way I expected it to.
Honestly, there is pretty much no bad stuff. The fact that it’s a murder mystery is actually not as much of an issue as I expected. Gore is not gone into at all. No descriptions of “cold skin” or “lifeless eyes” that would freak out a few of my younger siblings. The description of the man dying or the murder itself takes barely a page, but, if you are very disturb-able, it might disturb you if you tried really hard.
My one (one and only, very small, pretty unimportant) gripe is the very ending. I just wish it would have gone on for a few more pages. Gone into a little more detail on how everything wrapped up and how it affected (without giving away spoilers) *cough*… everyone.
But, then again, that kind of ending is encouraged in One Year Adventure Novel. “Leave your readers wanting more” and all that. She definitely did that. Leaving a little to the imagination. I mean, you could definitely see how it would turn out. I just wish she’d described it.
Especially recommend it to mystery lovers and logical-minded people (like myself :P).
Have you ever read any of Josephine Tey’s books?
Think you’ll read this one?