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This is one of the most intriguing crime stories I've read. Alan Grant - Scotland Yard detective - is asked to investigate the death of a man in a theatre queue. The man has no identification on him and makers' labels have been cut from all his clothes except his tie.

The corpse has a revolver in his coat pocket and has been stabbed in the back with a small knife or dagger which could have been used as a letter opener. The only thing Grant knows about the killer is that he is left handed and has a cut on his thumb from a sharp piece of metal on the handle of the knife. From these unpromising beginnings the police have to find the killer.

This story kept me guessing - just as it did the police - yet when you look back the clues are there to be seen. All the characters come to life and the descriptions of events and places are very evocative. I like the police characters in Josephine Tey's novels and in contrast to many modern crime novels they actually like and get on with one another. I thought the undercover activities of the two police officers were well done too and made me laugh.

If you want to read classic crime novels written in the style of the Golden Age of detective fiction then Josephine Tey's Alan Grant novels are as good as they get.
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on 13 April 1998
The "Man in the Queue", by Josephine Tey, commences on London's West Side, where "Didn't You Know?", the hit musical, is in the last week of its run. Its newly famous star, Ray Marcable, who is London's darling, is leaving for America to seek even greater fame and fortune there. The show has been sold out for weeks, but there is a huge line (the queue of the title) outside, waiting for a chance to get same day only seats for the show. The people in line have been waiting several hours, on the whole good-naturedly, but there is considerable pushing and shoving and re-aligning as the line finally begins to move forward. When a middle-aged woman reaches the ticket booth, she indignantly turns to say something to the man who is pushing hard against her back and is horrified when he falls to the ground dead with a silver dagger sticking out of his back. No one can say when the dead man was stabbed, for the crush of the crowd has supported and carried him forward for some time
When his body is examined by the police, the young man is revealed to be carrying no identification, and has no tags or marks in his clothes. The only item of interest is a service revolver in his pocket, with fingerprints on it that prove not to be the victim's. Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard is assigned the case and the remainder of the book is an absorbing police procedural documenting the painstaking process of his quest to discover first the victim's identity and then his murderer. The search truly does become a quest for Grant, who is moved by something in the face of the victim and angered by the anonymity and callousness of his end.
Although The Man in the Queue was written almost 70 years ago, in 1929, it has aged amazingly well and will not be read as a quaint period piece, even though the war that many of the male characters fought in and the female ones nursed in is The Great War, WWI. One reason for the lack of datedness in the book is the fact that although Tey was writing in the Golden Age of British mysteries, her novels are driven more by the personalities and motivations of her characters than by the tricky kind of puzzles that depend on timetables and exotic poisons. What causes people to commit evil acts is more interesting to her than merely naming a villain. In fact, the subtext of The Man in the Queue is the question of whether there is a villain in the story at all.
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on 12 October 2010
Josephine Tey stands out among crime writers by her use of very normal and everyday explanations for her mysteries. I know of no better mystery writer or book that reminds me that the easily-overlooked and every day solutions are the ones that explain 90% of real life mysteries. Well done Josephine Tey. A disappointment? No, a refreshing blast of real life.
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This is the first Josephine Tey mystery, featuring Inspector Alan Grant. The novel begins on a March evening in London, where there are long queues outside the many theatres, including the Woffington; currently playing the long running show, “Didn’t You Know?” This is coming to the end of a long run and so the crowds are intense, with a patient crowd inching forward and hoping to get to see the beautiful Ray Marcable. As the doors open though, a man in the queue is murdered and Inspector Grant is called in to investigate.

This is a good example of a Golden Age mystery. Grant is intelligent, thoughtful and committed to finding the right person. We are taken from London restaurants to race tracks and even the Scottish countryside on the investigation. Who is the unknown victim in the queue and why was he killed?

Although I really enjoy mysteries from this era, I found I had mixed feelings about this novel. I liked the sense of place and time (aside from the rather uncomfortable terms used for anyone not British) and Grant was a good lead, even if I found him rather dry and without any defined personality in this book. However, it was the first novel featuring him and, as such, was an interesting introduction. The plot started well, but the ending was weak. As such, this was something of a disappointment, as it felt rushed and not quite in character with the rest of the novel, although I am glad I gave this first in the series a try.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 November 2011
I love Josephine Tey for her sharp eye, fine writing, good characterisation and twisty-turny plots. This book is the first of the Inspector Grant series and while it doesn't quite have the same engrossing, disorienting quality of The Franchise Affair, it's still a superior example of the classic crime novel.

A man is stabbed while waiting in a London theatre queue - and soon Inspector Grant is caught is a fine muddle of the theatre, bookmakers, London landladies, men's outfitters and a trip to the Scottish highlands.

It has to be said that some of the early clues turn out to be red herrings that are quietly dropped (the lack of laundry marks on the victim's clothing?), and there is an audacious use of coincidences at which Tey herself pokes fun.
But for a compelling, fun read that will keep you guessing to the end, this is perfect.
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on 9 June 2015
This is a very well written novel,atmospheric and involving. A book of it's time, with eloquent writing and enjoyable characters. To some it will seem old fashioned in it's style, I found it better for it.
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on 4 June 2015
An old fashioned, plodding police story. Because of the age of the publication it has faultless grammar and many now disused words which have disappeared from good writing practice so I enjoyed that as much as the story
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on 22 March 2016
I suppose times change and what is acceptable changes over time but I was surprised by the use of the word "dago" which is as offensive as the n word nowadays. The casual use of the word over and over again is a bit like hearing a bishop swear in church. It is difficult to see how the book could be edited to remove the offensive word.
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on 1 July 2016
I first read this. book years ago ,and was immensely impressed then ,and I am pleased to report that I am still immensely impressed ! Written before the days when a big body_count was deemed necessary , this is a quiet, intense mystery
that draws you in ,with a very satisfactory ending.
I'm planning to re_read it !
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