Imagine, that on a Friday afternoon, as you are relaxing, you hear a knock on the door. You open the door and find a policeman with a young and innocent girl around 15 years of age. The girl claims that you have kidnapped her and had her confined in the attic of your home for a fortnight. You had given her severe beatings causing bruises all over her body. She describes your house in some detail. She describes your mother and you and definitely identifies you as the one who had whipped her. How would you prove your innocence? So, why did you kidnap her? Well, you need a maid to do household work. Can you believe this? This is the premise of The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey published in 1948.
Marion Sharpe and her mother are confronted with this situation. While Marion and her mother are eccentric and isolated enough to have done this, there is never even a shadow of doubt about their innocence in Robert Blair's eyes, the lawyer Marion calls for legal and friendly advice. The town condemns them without a trial. Will Blair prove their innocence? How will Blair unmask the feigned innocence and reveal the true nature of the girl? Where was she anyway?
My first thoughts while reading the book was, "Isn't this the story of some Ruth Rendell book? The one with the house with shingles." A little research shows that the book is Harm Done and looks like Rendell took the story to the next level taking up the alternative scenario. Who would kidnap young girls to do household work in modern times? Why would they kidnap? Ruth Rendell even mentions the uncanny resemblance to Wexford's favourite novel, The Franchise Affair. Kidnapping, confinement and forced to do household work, no Harm done , says Inspector Mike Burden.
Now to The Franchise Affair, there is not even a little bit of doubt that the Sharpe women could have done something like that. If there had been a doubt and there was more proof that they may have done something like that, it would have been interesting. So the story is more or less straightforward. Blair has to find out where the girl was when she claimed to have been locked up in the attic.
This is the third Tey book I am reading all featuring Alan Grant. Here Grant makes a brief appearance, this is mostly Blair's scene. Tey explores her favourite hobby here too. Not reading faces, but the colour of the eye. Do you know if your eyes are a particular colour, you are oversexed, and if it is of a different shade you are a liar, oh, maybe a murderer too? I can feel Tey laughing at the reader all along as I felt it in her other books. For the other alternative read Ruth Rendell. Oh! I love Ruth Rendell. Um! This is supposed to be my opinion on Tey's book, it's okay. I love the premise and wish there was some twist or surprise in the end.