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Not Tey's Best Effort
on 23 October 2014
Tey's "The Man in the Queue" was published in 1929, and was the novel which introduced us to her amiable Scotland Yard sleuth Inspector Alan Grant.When a man in a theatre queue is stabbed to death, all the evidence points towards one man, and before long, Grant is in hot pursuit of his fleeing quarry. There's just one problem; in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Grant just can't rid himself of the nagging feeling that somehow, the police have got it all wrong...
Although I've read and reread other Tey novels over the years, I've just finished reading "The Man in the Queue" for the first time. It's written in that style of British "Golden Age" detective fiction which I so enjoy. This is more a battle of wits between a determined sleuth and a wily foe than a plod through a succession of damaged characters, gruesome slayings, revolting autopsy descriptions and boring forensic detail which seem to be the stock in trade of so many modern detective novelists. So it's got loads of period charm, but like Wimsey and Poirot, has aged well, and doesn't seem dated.
Throw in an intriguing plot, a good chase, plenty of humour and some nicely drawn characters, and as far as I'm concerned I should have been on to a surefire winner with this novel, and for most of its length, I was. Unfortunately, it all goes wrong in the final act. What should have been a great finale falls flat on its face in a hopelessly rushed and contrived fashion, which left me feeling deflated and a bit cheated. If this had been my first encounter with Josephine Tey, it's likely that I wouldn't have bothered to renew the acquaintance, which would have been unfortunate to say the least.
All in all then, an entertaining read which ultimately, lets itself and the reader down somewhat.