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Josephine Tey

Daughter of Time, Brat Farrar, To Love and be Wise. The Man in the Queue, The Franchise Affair

December 25, 2023

Josephine Tey (Daughter of Time, Brat Farrar, To Love and be Wise. The Man in the Queue, The Franchise Affair -least favorite)

Her real name might have been Elizabeth MacKintosh and she might have been born on July 25, 1896, in Inverness, Scotland.  According to Nicola Upson, who tried to write a biography of Tey, none of her life details (did she teach Physical training in England and Scotland? Did she return to take care of her father?) have been independently proven. And she wrote plays like “Richard of Bordeaux” under the name Gordon Daviot, according to actor John Gielgud, who claims that they were friends until she died in 1952. Talk about a mystery!

I didn’t realize that I was reading a mystery when I picked up my first Josephine Tey, “Daughter of Time,” although it became clear that Alan Grant, who tells the story in first person, is a Scotland Yard detective who, while convalescing in bed, becomes interested in solving the actual fate of King Richard III. Then I read Brat Farrar, a small-town story about a British-born American who so closely resembles the soon-to-inherit heir of a British couple that died, he’s convinced to return to England to play the part of the heir’s younger brother, who years before had flung himself off a cliff and was washed out to sea. Do NOT read the Wikipedia description of the book because it will ruin the ending.

Her mysteries don’t conform to the rules as they’ve come down to us, and Detective Grant isn’t always clever (like in The Franchise Affair, my least favorite of Tey’s books, in which a small-town lawyer figures out the mystery). It’s refreshing in that the characters and culture are necessary- the way people dress and speak, how they serve tea and how they behave in public all set the stage. Tey brilliantly tells small stories and shares daily, insignificant-sounding conversations that only come together at the very end.

When I need a break from cozy heroines who bake and eat yummy things all day long while solving murders in their sweet little hometowns, Josephine Tey is a balm.

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