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Bertie

The Man in the Queue

Well, I'm back with my crime fic once again. I never can keep away for very long. Weird to think that up until the last four or five years I read hardly any crime fiction at all and now they're part of my staple reading diet. Today's offering is The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.

Queue



It's the last night a popular stage musical and a huge queue is waiting outside the theatre, hoping to pick up last minute seats. It's a long wait and people read or chat to each other in the queue. (No mobile phones in the 1920s!) At last the doors open and the people at the head of the queue move forward, apart from one man. The queue is so tight that he is held upright and no one has noticed that he is dead, knifed in the back.

Inspector Alan Grant is tasked with the job of solving the murder but first of all it's necessary to find out who the dead man is. No one comes forward to report a missing person and this proves to be a long laborious process. Eventually Grant discovers the man's identity and all the evidence points to his room-mate as the killer, although there are plenty of others whose actions are suspicious enough to arouse the policeman's curiosity.

Naturally, said room-mate goes on the run and Grant tracks him all over London and even to the west coast of Scotland. But the inspector is not a happy man. It's all too convenient and obvious somehow. Has he really caught his murderer?

I gather Josephine Tey was a very popular crime author in her day but now of course her books come under the heading of 'Vintage' Crime. I'd heard of this series but not read any of them until my eldest daughter gave me a set of books that she'd had given to her. So I now own all six of the Alan Grant books (plus two standalones) and that's really rather nifty as I liked this book an awful lot!

Alan Grant is an intelligent, thinking policeman, thankfully not an alcoholic, divorcee for once, but a chap of independent means who loves his job and goes quietly about it without any fuss. It makes a nice change! He is written very well as are the other characters in the book, particularly I thought, the women. The actress, the landlady, a particluar woman in the queue, the girl in Scotland, all very well drawn.

My favourite section was in Scotland in fact. The action moved to the west coast of that beautiful country and, for me anyway, it very much took on the flavour of a John Buchan novel. I was forcefully reminded of Huntingtower, which I read last month, not only in the excitement of the rum goings on and the chase, but also in the rather beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the isolated villages and the wild coastline. To be honest I could cheerfully read whole books along this line so perhaps it's time I got back to John Buchan.

So, this was a very satisfying read. I found it intelligent and tricky in respect of the whodunnit aspect because I never did guess who it was and I suspect most people wouldn't either. Oddly, I might have to cite that ending as a weakness in the book instead of a strength, although obviously I can't say why. Overall, I liked the book a lot and look forward to more outings with Inspector Grant.

This book qualifies for two of the challenges that I'm doing this year. Firstly, Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo 2014 under the category of 'a book with a professional detective'. And secondly, Peggy's Read Scotland 2014 and is my sixth book for that challenge.

Comments

Oh! I have - or used to have (not sure now) - this one! Josephine Tey is great, isn't she? And yes to Alan Grant: a nice man and a good detective. He crops up in a couple of her books: he's the detective in the hospital in The Daughter of Time (the one which looks at Richard III) and I think he may be in The Franchise Affair too.

If you liked the Scottish section, you should look for The Singing Sands as well - it's not nearly so well-known, but it has lots in Scotland and parts on the Western Isles. I wish I could remember more about it, but that was a library loan and so I can't go and quickly find it.
I think there are six Alan Grant books, and my daughter gave me all of them. Her sister-in-law gave them to her and she wasn't interested in reading them so asked me if I wanted them! I came home with eight new books, including the two you mention. I think The Singing Sands is the sixth AG book, and I'm thrilled that it has lots of Scotland in it. Will read that last as I'm a bit anal and prefer to read series of books in order.

Crime fiction is definitely my favourite genre. I think I did try one of Josephine Tey's books a few years ago (something to do with Richard III? Not sure) but didn't finish it. Maybe I should look out for this one. Thanks for the rec!

Just discovered Michael Connolly (for some reason I've always avoided him in the past) and read The fifth Witness, quite a page turner and I enjoyed it a lot.
It's probably become my favourite genre too, to be honest. So many good authors out there. Yes, one of the series has a picture of Richard III on it... The Daughter of Time.

My husband reads Michael Connolly and loves him. I tend to prefer 'John' Connolly. His Charlie Parker books are probably my favourite series of all time.
John Connolly? He sounds like another writer I might like and will look out for. Thank you!
I think if I had to name my favourite author it would be hard but John Connolly would probably be it. (Terry Prachett would figure too, Robin Hobb... Anne McCaffrey... like I said, a hard choice!) His Charlie Parker books are crime/horror, wierd, quite hard-hitting and just brilliantly written and totally absorbing. He's also responsible for one of my favourite ever books of macabre short stories, Nocturnes. An author well worth investigating.
Inspired by your reply I went to my local charity shop looking for something by John Connolly and guess what? They didn't have anything but I came out with Tey's The Man in the Queue, so I was very pleased. The font's slightly small for me but it's dark so hopefully I'll be OK reading it after a few obligatory glasses of wine.

I've not read any of the authors you mentioned as I tend to go for American writers, but having said that two memorable books from years ago were both by British writers: Ruth Rendell's The Speaker of Mandarin and Peter Lovesey's The False Inspector Dew. Can't remember why I liked them, just that I did!

Cheers.
Oh... so pleased you found The Man in the Queue. What a coincidence!

Connolly's Charlie Parker books are set in Maine in the USA (though they move about a bit). He's Irish but you would not know it from the books. He gets awards for 'writing like an American' or something. The books have the added attraction for me of having a gay couple in them... two assassin types who help Charlie in his PI business.

I've read a couple of books by Peter Lovesey and quite liked them. Ruth Rendall too.
Gay assassins and set in the States? They definitely sound like my kind of books! And if they're written by an Irishman I might not need to translate quite so many terms (e.g. franchise player, bondsman). I'll definitely look out for him in my library. Thanks again!
Oh, I read a book by her last year - Daughter of Time I think, the one about Richard III. Now I think of it, it might even have been about Alan Grant, laid up in hospital for a bit, and being brought a mystery to keep him busy? Oh yes - I've just checked, it was! I must admit I wasn't overly enamoured of it, but that might have been because it all took place in the hospital bed really. Maybe I'll give him another go, if you enjoyed this one!

Nice cover on your picture, too... *g*
The Daughter of Time endures in popularity because of the subject matter but it's the least of her works in my opinion. That's not to say that you'd enjoy her other books but since DT isn't representative it might be worth trying something else.
Ah, another vote for Tey - I shall definitely have to see what my local library has, then. Thanks!
because it all took place in the hospital bed really

LOL! Now I really am intrigued! I did like this one I must admit. Not the most brilliant book ever but a good read and the Scottish bit was delightful.
When Richard III's remains were found, one of the articles I read about the subject mentioned Daughter of Time, so I bought it from Amazon, and read it. The prose was a little old fashioned and stiff at first, but the subject just fascinated me and, to be honest, I've read it at least three times now.

The rest of her Alan Grant stories has been on my tbr list for awhile now. We need to get in a supply of good books to help pass the time when my husband has his hip replacement surgery in the not-too-distant future... But maybe the one about the bed-fast, recuperating policeman might not be the best choice for him, considering the circumstances...
I can't wait to get to that one. But I must try to be patient and read them in order. I haven't read much about Richard III but years ago was extremely impressed by We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman.

I do hope your husband's hip replacement goes well when it does eventually happen. Also that you manage to find the right books.

Thanks for the good wishes, Cathy. The public library is down to being open only two days a week, here, but they still have some wonderful books available, and good books keep getting published all the time! (...And there's always TV...)

=)