Karo’s #CBR5 Review #4: The Man In The Queue by Josephine Tey

I first heard of Josephine Tey last year, just before the whole real-life mystery of Richard III was getting the media treatment. Reading The Daughter of Time had a double effect: I knew my Richard III when his bones were presented to the world (cue smug grin), and I immediately put everything Tey had ever written on my Christmas wish list. I now have a neat little collection on my shelf (are we allowed to use the words “box set”?)
The Man in the Queue is Tey’s first novel, written when the world was young – in 1929. It’s a good old-fashioned crime novel. A man gets stabbed and dies while waiting in line for the last performance of a long-running and very successful play in London’s West End. It takes a while to identify the victim, and the people who were standing close to him just before he died are not helping the investigation much. Inspector Grant does a lot of old-fashioned policing and finally runs a suspect down, only to then seriously doubt his involvement. As far as crime novels go, it’s nothing new, and it’s not all that difficult to guess who the perpetrator is, but that’s not the point – and the plot not being the point is generally a good indication of a good book.
Firstly, Inspector Grant is a good egg. He’s charming, and just all-round nice, even though Tey doesn’t spend a lot of time describing his inner life. Her writing simply makes everything work, and Grant’s investigation, while not exactly thrilling, seems traceable and logical. I liked the man because he made a lot of sense.
Secondly, it’s all so charmingly old-fashioned and outdated. The thought of an Inspector of Scotland Yard running after a suspect and then running straight on to find a public phone box to report back to HQ made me squeal with delight. At one point, he turns up unexpectedly at a witness’ door and pretends he just needs to use the telephone, and nobody finds that at all strange. There are even false beards, and I bet false beards were all the rage in the Twenties. I loved it. The fact that the author never meant for any of this to be out of the ordinary makes it even more charming.
The majority of Tey’s works were written after 1945, and it’ll be interesting to see how her writing and the setting change. There are six more novels, and I’m saving them for cosy evenings.

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