Friday, January 11, 2013
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
In 1990 Tey’s The Daughter of Time was voted the greatest mystery novel of all time. So this author has been on my radar, but it wasn’t until I picked up The Franchise Affair that I got to see what all the fuss was about.
Tey (pseudonym for Scottish novelist Elizabeth MacKintosh) wrote detective fiction from the 1930’s until her death in 1952. Jonathan Yardley, book critic for the Washington Post, writes of her six final novels, Each of the six seems as fresh today as it must have been when it first appeared: elegantly written, populated with interesting and sometimes eccentric characters, witty, but also laugh-out-loud funny, engaged with far deeper themes and ideas than one is accustomed to encounter in most mystery novels.
I have to agree with his assessment. I loved Tey’s fine writing and excellent, believable dialogue. I loved the Hobbit-like Mr. Blair, a country lawyer, who gives up his quiet bachelorhood to take on the case of Marian Sharpe.
I loved the gentle humor: He longed to do something decisive and spectacular to please her, just as he longed to rescue his lady-love from burning buildings when he was fifteen. But alas, there was no surmounting the fact that he was forty-odd and had learned that it was wiser to wait for the fire escape. (p. 117)
Tey pokes gentle fun at bleeding heart liberals (the Bishop), tabloids (The Ack-Emma), and modernity:
The London-Larborough road was a black straight ribbon in the sunshine, giving off diamond sparks as the crowded traffic caught the light and lost it again. Pretty soon both the air and the roads would be so full that no one could move in comfort and everyone would have to go back to the railways for quick travel. Progress, that was.
There are some obscure phrases related to English culture in the 1950’s, but a quick search on google explained most of them. The book includes a very mild sprinkling of profanity. At the same time there are references to prayer, the angel of the Lord and “the triumph of good”. A thumping good read.