Having seen Josephine Tey recommended as one of the generation of golden age crime writers that often goes underread and is not given the credit she deserves, I was keen to read some of her work after several enjoyable experiences with Agatha Christie. Not that Miss Pym feels she has much to offer the students of Leys Physical Training College, a community that rouses at 5:30 a.m. and moves seamlessly through a series of exhaustive physical pursuits and works the Seniors into a heightened state of anxiety in the week of Final Examinations and the Demonstration. Principal Henrietta Hodge tells Lucy that, when a human being works as hard as these girls do, it has neither the spare interest to devise a crime nor the energy to undertake it. The ensuing moral questions leave law abiding Miss Pym in a position to offer up her own knowledge and potentially incriminate a young girl who meant no permanent harm or keep her counsel and let God dispose.
Rather, she's a high school teacher turned best-selling author of a pop psychology book who visits an old friend who is now the principal of a women's physical training college. Tey builds up to it slowly, through a series of psychological portraits of the characters as they interact with each other and with Miss Pym. Tey's prose is witty and sharp and and her character development is excellent.* In addition, the narrative contains touches which will mean something to readers who know about Tey and her interests. A novel which features apparently criminal behaviour set in a women's college and having as its central characters a number of students and teachers invites comparison with Dorothy L Sayers'Gaudy Night.
By this point in my reread of Josephine Tey it's more than clear that she did not write ordinary books. The cover blurb clearly gives out that Disposes is a murder mystery, but the story is in no rush to do anyone in. It's a different sort of suspense than is often found in the genre rather than being kept waiting to find out whodunnit or whether this one will escape the murderer or that one escape the law, here it is a wait to see which of these people I've quickly come to like will a) die and b) be responsible.
It was very good when I was almost 30, better when I was just past 50 and great now. And I understand Henrietta's original job offer decision IMMENSELY better now too.
Nominalno, ovo je krimi, ali zloin se desi tek negde na tri etvrtine knjige i odmah je jasno (itaocima, ne pripovedaici) ko je poinilac - ali ne zbog nekakvih gusto posejanih nagovetaja nego zbog motivacije likova koja je vrlo briljivo razraena u prethodne tri etvrtine teksta. godine) stravinim posledicama, d) engletini koja varira od onog simpatinog ponoenja domaom kuhinjom (domaom.
I don't know what to call this insofar as this is as much a character study of various female students in the forties as it is a mystery novel that advocates applied psychology and body language reading to solve crimes.
Now that is not necessarily a bad thing - I used to love the Malory Towers books, but I knew what to expect, what I would be getting when I turned their pages. The difficulty with describing this as a crime or mystery story is that the crime only actually happens right near the end of the book once I had begun to give up all hope.
I would not compare this work with "Gaudy Night." Other than the fact that it takes place in a school, there is no comparison, and even the school setting is not the same. Even if it were not necessary to spend the first two-thirds of the book developing the characters and their relationships in order to provide an adequate motive for the murder, the exploration of those characters and relationships would be worth the time, as would the introduction we get to another place and time.
If this had been the first book I'de ever read, by Josephine Tey, I'd never had read another one. It was, in terms of language, well written, although missing some of Tey's usually faultless description. Sorry Miss Tey: Could Do Better.
Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant. Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot.