Friday, June 28, 2013

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey (1896-1952) is less remembered by the general public than Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and other big name writers of the Golden Age of British Crime (1920-1950), but Tey (her real name was Elizabeth Macintosh) is still very well-regarded by devoted readers. In fact, the Crime Writers Association, a British literary group, put Tey's Daughter of Time at the top of its 100 best mystery novels list issued in 1990. The Franchise Affair is #11 on the list. Her books are still in print and finding readers.

Strangely, her publisher doesn't even know what it is marketing. The banner across the back cover of The Franchise Affair proclaims "Inspector Alan Grant returns in one of Tey's finest mysteries." While this is technically true, there is very little of Tey's famous inspector in the book. I think he appears in two scenes and is otherwise offstage. The main character in this case is a small village lawyer who is asked to represent a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother in an alleged kidnapping case. It is alleged because there is no actual evidence that the two women locked a teenager in their attic for a month as the girl who had been missing claimed. At first, no one wants to believe the girl, but she is able to describe the house and its attic very well.

The lawyer Robert Blair is an endearing man who knows much more about wills and deeds than criminal proceeding, but he learns what he has to do and calls in help when necessary. The local mechanic and his elderly aunt may be his most clever allies in this somewhat gentle mystery that avoids being in any way predictable. If you want a sample of a mystery in which no one dies (despite the picture on the cover), this is your book.

Tey, Josephine. The Franchise Affair. Touchstone Books, 2009, 1949. 300p. ISBN 9780684842561.

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