Friday, 17 August 2012

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

Is it possible to murder somebody in a busy crowded place and get away? In this Josephine Tey novel published in 1929, a man in a overcrowded queue for the last week show of a famous London play is murdered. Before who murdered him and why, the question is why this location? It looks like something done on the spur of the moment, if so do people carry ornate weapons for no purpose? If it was planned, wouldn't the murderer look for a more easy location where the person would have a greater chance to escape? Would nobody in the big long overcrowded queue, notice neither the murderer nor the murder? Why are there no identification papers or marks on the victim? Why is the victim carrying a gun? Who is the victim?

Inspector Alan Grant investigates! On seeing the murder weapon, Grant pronounces that no Englishman would use such an ornate weapon to commit murder or use such a location for murder. Therefore the murder should be a Levantine. After this, I wasn't sure what direction the story would take. Luckily for Grant, a foreigner is found on the immediate vicinity of the murder. Grant goes on a wild goose chase all over remote Scottish highlands before he apprehends his suspect.

I wasn't entirely sure of what to make of this story or Grant. First is the location. What kind of person would choose such an impractical location for murder? Second would any detective start with a prejudice? Englishman or not, if the murderer finds a suitable weapon for his deed, is he not likely to use it?

Another thing that irked me was Grant for all his running about all over England and Scotland does not solve the case. Though the ending is satisfactory and gives a plausible explanation, it wasn't easy for me to buy the story.

It took a very long while for me to understand that Tey is laughing at me. A second reading of the first few chapters brought the humour out to me and the points that irked me the first time brought smile now. It was reading Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder where Tey is featured and Ruth Rendell's The Saint Zita Society that brought home to me that the location is plausible.

I borrowed the book from Openlibrary. My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet M.


Anonymous said...

I like Tey as a prose stylist more than anything, but I have often wondered about a certain disdainful attitude in her mysteries and I suspect that there is a lot in what you say about this gentle guying of the conventions of the genre in this novel - cheers.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora)

Peggy Ann said...

I just found this one at a used book store and can't wait to get to it!

srivalli said...

Thanks for stopping by Sergio and Peggy!

TracyK said...

I have read all of the Tey mysteries (and loved them). This review makes me want to reread this book (for at least the 2nd time) and also read Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder, which is on my To Be Read shelves.