The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

This was the first book I had read by the distinguished mystery writer, Josephine Tey. Her work had been recommended to me over the years and I finally got around to reading her first mystery, The Man in the Queue. It was my introduction to her detective inspector Alan Grant and I must say I liked him and trusted him and enjoyed the way he worked with his colleagues.

The Blurb

Inspector Alan Grant searches for the identity of a man killed in the line at a theater and for the identity of the killer—whom no one saw.

A long line had formed for the standing-room-only section of the Woffington Theatre. London’s favorite musical comedy of the past two years was finishing its run at the end of the week. Suddenly, the line began to move, forming a wedge before the open doors as hopeful theatergoers nudged their way forward. But one man, his head sunk down upon his chest, slowly sank to his knees and then, still more slowly, keeled over on his face. Thinking he had fainted, a spectator moved to help, but recoiled in horror from what lay before him: the man in the queue had a small silver dagger neatly plunged into his back. With the wit and guile that have made Inspector Grant a favorite of mystery fans, the inspector sets about discovering just how a murder occurred among so many witnesses, none of whom saw a thing.

The Review

I had been told that, as this was the first of Tey’s novels, it was not as good as her other books. However, the book starts strongly with a discrete murder amongst those waiting to go into a theatre. DI Alan Grant is in charge of the case and, with the members of his team he investigates the case methodically and interviews all the witnesses.

The evidence points to a dark haired fellow and Grant sees him in the street and gives chase, to no avail. However, Grant follows the trail to Scotland and gives chase. He catches the man and returns home to report to his Superintendent, but remains uneasy that the evidence does not quite stack up. Against his superior’s inclination, Grant continues to investigate and both he and his boss are amazed by what he discovers.

The Author

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. Josephine was her mother’s first name and Tey the surname of an English Grandmother. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot , whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937).

Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. The district of Daviot, near her home of Inverness in Scotland, was a location her family had vacationed. The name Gordon does not appear in either her family or her history.

Elizabeth Mackintosh came of age during World War I, attending Anstey Physical Training College in Birmingham, England during the years 1915-1918. Upon graduation, she became a physical training instructor for eight years. In 1926, her mother died and she returned home to Inverness to care for her invalid father. Busy with household duties, she turned to writing as a diversion, and was successful in creating a second career.

Alfred Hitchcock filmed one of her novels, ‘A Shilling for Candles’ (1936) as ‘Young and Innocent’ in 1937 and two other of her novels have been made into films, ‘The Franchise Affair’ (1948), filmed in 1950, and ‘Brat Farrar’ (1949), filmed as ‘Paranoiac’ in 1963. In addition a number of her works have been dramatised for radio.

Her novel ‘The Daughter of Time’ (1951) was voted the greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990.

Miss Mackintosh never married, and died at the age of 55, in London. A shy woman, she is reported to have been somewhat of a mystery even to her intimate friends. While her death seems to have been a surprise, there is some indication she may have known she was fatally ill for some time prior to her passing.

Val Penny

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