Sunday, June 25, 2017

Three by Tey: Miss Pym Disposes; The Franchise Affair and Brat Farrar

On YouTube is one of my favorite works by  Paul Hindemith.  I enjoy listening and performing the Flute Sonata.  A few years ago, I worked with a very talented flutist and we performed this work together.  I used to tell Jacquie the flutist who had the body and slender build of a ballet dancer, and was also very beautiful that she was a "skinny flutist with a fat sound" because she created such a full, robust melodic line.  I did not know where she got the lung capacity. This performance is by flutist Paul Michell and pianist Monika Laczofy.

A while back I read two of the three stories by Joephine Tey in this collection.  She is fast becoming my favorite mystery novelist.

Miss Pym DisposesMiss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not your formulaic crime story. Tey makes use of in depth psychology to expose the human tendency to rely on our own reasoning and to judge people according to our own prejudices rather than with a true and objective eye for character.

This is a very good mystery with engaging characters who discover their own limitations as they uncover the depths of evil in other people.

Tey does not follow the usual storyline common in detective stories of Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers, Perry Mason or Conan Doyle. Some may find her unusual tack off putting. While it may not be as satisfying as a good old fashioned crime story, it provides something more valuable than that. A peek into the human soul.

I have not really given a plot summary because the story is hard to explain.  The protagonist, Miss Pym, wrote a book about human psychology that was widely celebrated.  She visits an old friend at the Woman's college where she is the Director. The students all want to meet the famous writer of human psychology.

While she is there she gets to know the different students who are about to graduate and receive assignments. 

 There arises a controversy at graduation concerning the assignment as a teacher to a private school.  One student received it when everyone, student and teachers alike, expected another student to get it.

It is difficult to say who is punished more, the student who "deserved" the position or the poor girl who got it and is consequently hated by everyone.

It takes most of the book, but a tragedy does arise and there is no guessing how it happened and the results are completely unexpected. 

It concludes with Miss Pym deciding she has no business attempting any understanding at human psychology.

The Franchise Affair (Inspector Alan Grant, #3)The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Blair is a lawyer who primarily deals with real estate and wills. The story starts with Blair sitting in his office contemplating the predictability and routine of his life. He looks with satisfaction at the smooth current of his days as they peacefully undulate along. If there exists something down somewhere in his subconscious that pleads surely there must be more to life than this, Blair is able to successfully press that thought down to where it is safe from rising to the surface.

Of course we all recognize this as a classic set up. Adventure is obviously just around the corner.

Blair's adventure starts with a phone call. Marion Sharpe, a woman he knows only in passing as someone he occasionally runs into at the grocery store or other equally innocous places about town, wants him to represent herself and her mother. They have been accused of a strange crime and she is asking Blair to defend them.

Blair protests. He is not a defense lawyer. Surely someone else...No! Only Blair will do and after more feeble protesting, Blair finally decides to at least meet Miss Sharpe and her mother and find out what the charges are.

He arrives at Miss Sharpe's house, called the Franchise to meet her mother and also Inspector Grant, a detective all Tey readers are familiar with as he has starred in five or six of Tey's novels. Inspector Grant enlightens Blair as to what the charges are.

A teenage girl, Betty Kane, claims that while she was waiting for a bus to return home, she was kidnapped by Sharpe and her mother, brought back to the Franchise where she was forced to serve as a menial for them. They kept her prisoner in an upstairs bedroom when she was not working for them and they also beat her.

After presenting the charges, Grant then brings in Betty, who accurately describes the Franchise, including the room and its contents. She also shows the bruises on her body. Sharpe and her mother maintain their innocence.

Someone is lying, but who? Tey admirably keeps the reader in suspense until the end.

Most of the story is constructed slowly over time through interviews of people who know Kane. Blair also finds himself working as an investigator to find any holes Betty's story. In the meantime we grow to appreciate Tey's wonderful insight into the human psyche.

Because this is a tale of human psychology more than anything else. Tey reveals how rumor and suspicion are enough to condemn one in the eyes of the public. Do people really blindly believe everything as unadulterated truth simply because it's in the paper? Do papers really carefully manipulate words in order to direct people's opinions while blithely dodging libel?

Or does the newspaper simply provide people with an excuse to hate people they were already prejudiced against?

In this novel, Tey shows just how far some people will sink with only suspicion for a motive. But she also shows heroism in unexpected corners, their light shining all the more brightly for their minority status.

Most of the plot is developed through reconstruction of events and character studies. Both these attributes provide the reader with a highly satisfactory story as well as a conclusion that resolves in a believable and logical way.

I look forward to reading more Tey.

View all my reviews


Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon,

These sound good. I like the books do not follow the standard mystery formula. Originality is all too rare. I am currently reading Anthony Trollope's Phineas Redux and there is a murder trial that is not at all formulaic. This is very refreshing.

R.T. said...

Great reviews, Sharon. About a thousand years -- or so it seems -- I read Brat Farrar, which I really liked, and promised myself that I would read more by Tey. I never followed through on that promise, but your posting encourages me to take action. Thanks!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian. I have Phineas Redux. That may need to be my next book to read. I hope you will be able to read Tey because you will enjoy her.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Tim. You should read more Tey. I think you would really enjoy her. Take care!

Fred said...


Good reviews. I have read several of her mysteries featuring Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, I believe. Always interesting.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Fred. They are interesting. I am so glad I discovered her.

Mudpuddle said...

i like Tey; "The Daughter of Time" is her best, imo... but they're all good... Hindemith is somewhat an acquired taste, i believe... i think he wrote a solo piece of some sort for every instrument in the orchestra; somewhat of composing machine, producing copy at the push of a proverbial button... this is not a criticism, just an observation... some his work is quite listenable... i played some of his chamber music once, forget what, it was okay and technically interesting as i recall...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Mudpuddle! I have not read DoT but I have it. I am saving it for last because I have read that it had been voted the best crime mystery novel of the 20th century.

I know Hindemith is not for everyone. It's interesting why some music resonates with us and some does not. My tastes are pretty wide and varied, although I have seasons. At one time I adored Baroque. I still do, but I'm not as emotional about it. Romantic was my next favorite. Now it is 20th century.

That would make a great study, wouldn't it? What is it about the chord progressions, melodic lines et al...that connect us to one piece but not to another...

Hope everything is going well in the Mudpuddle household. No more formaldehyde, everything finally getting back together.

Mudpuddle said...

maybe music appreciation depends on depth of exposure: performers such as yourself, with decades of intense immersion in various forms, undoubtedly experience outre works more deeply than the rest of us...
just now finally finished gluing up the plumbing and hooking up the dishwasher; a 3 day struggle that a pro would have knocked out in half a day... as well, the local hardware store is about out of ABS pipe and fittings; my fault as i kept making so many mistakes... total cost: something over $200; dishwasher: $65; cabinet: $25; counter:$7; sink: $15; all the rest in parts... all appliances and solid pieces from Habitat for Humanity...

Sharon Wilfong said...

Mudpuddle: I often think of different styles or genres of music as languages. If one listens long enough one begins to comprehend the language. That's my theory. It took me a while to process Debussy but now he's one of my favorites. 20th century music can be very atonal and can produce an "unresolved" or "lonely" sound. I wonder if that is why I sometimes identify with it. Not that I'm all that lonely, but I am very reflective and have a strong sense of "aloneness". If that makes sense.

I'm glad things are working out on the domestic side of things. What a pain and so labor intensive. (I have a painting job waiting me). That's interesting that HforH provided that. I did not know they did that. Made it affordable which is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for recommending these, Sharon. I know of Josephine Tey but I haven't read her work. Now I can recommend her to those looking for a slightly different style mystery (and add her books to my to-read list, as well!)

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Marcia. I'm glad to let you know about a great, fun writer. Hope you enjoy her!