Friday, May 27, 2016

The Franchise Affair

by Josephine Tey

Story summary: I can't do a summary right now. I'm too tired and far too behind in reviews. Goodreads to the rescue!

"Marion Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable that is, until the police turn up with a demure young woman on their doorstep. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window.

But there's something about Betty Kane's story that doesn't quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. And it takes Robert Blair, local solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of The Franchise Affair..."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • What you think of when you think Golden-Age British Mystery: small and cozy English village, secluded English country house, amateur sleuth, mysterious women, dash of romance.
  • It's just written really well. I find it difficult to explain or analyze why I like Josephine Tey so much, but at least I know I'm not alone in it. Finishing one of her books leaves me feeling happy in a lovely and satisfied way.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There's no focus at all on whodunnit. You pretty much know from the beginning, it's just a matter of proving it. Not a criticism at all, but if you were expecting that standard aspect of a mystery story, you may be disappointed.
  • And I know that's a bit of a lame reason, but I can't really think of anything else. I have two small criticisms that I list below, but neither are likely to stop one from enjoying the book as a whole. So I guess I'll just have to say it all depends on your enjoyment of mystery stories, especially British Golden Age ones.

Thoughts: Tey's books are something to be savoured. The only book by her I haven't enjoyed was Brat Farrar, but I remember not savouring that one enough. I treated it more like an Agatha Christie book or a thriller, in a rush to see whodunnit, caught up in which character I was hoping was the bad guy. But I think absorbing the atmosphere, the characters, and the ideas is the best way to go with her.

The atmosphere of this one was distinctive from the other books I've read by her so far in it's coziness. The main sleuth was a small-town solicitor determined to save a couple of fascinating women from slander and gossip, mostly. There was danger, of course, but really it was a "curl up in the window seat and drink hot chocolate" sort of book for me, and it made me happy.

I only have a few main issues, which for the most part did not interfere at all with my enjoyment of the book:

--She has this weird fascination with how people's looks determine one's character (called "physiognomy"). It's been in every book so far, I think. It's actually rather a fascinating topic for me, and I would love to figure out some system of classifying and figuring out people through their looks. But I doubt it's very scientific, and then on top of that, it's also incredibly dangerous. How close does this get to racism, eugenics, general prejudice, and all those evils?
--And this concerns the very last chapter, so is obviously a spoiler. rot13 it to read: Va trareny, V gubhtug gur ebznapr orgjrra Evpuneq naq Znevba jnf fhcre phgr naq V ybirq vg. Ubjrire, V jnf n yvggyr qvfpbapregrq ol gur raq. Gurer jnf n pregnva ynpx bs pbafrag ol Znevba, naq gurer'q or yvggyr V crefbanyyl jbhyq qvfyvxr zber guna univat fbzrbar V fnvq "Ab" gb sbyybjvat zr nyy gur jnl gb nabgure pbhagel.

So now my big problem is deciding whether I want to go out and read all the rest of hers right away because I'm so much looking forward to them, or whether I should save them for the perfect cozy day when all I want is book I know is going to be lovely.

Grade: 4 stars

If You Like This, You Might Also Like:
  • Of course, you have to try the other books by her, especially The Daughter of TimeThe Singing Sands, and Miss Pym Disposes.
  • Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie: This is also more about proving the innocence of a somewhat outcast woman than anything else. Also they both have romances I think are cute. (The TV version of Sad Cypress also stars Paul McGann, the eight Doctor. So that's awesome.)

No comments: