Friday, 7 April 2000

Josephine Tey: The Man in the Queue (1953)

Edition: Pan, 1973
Review number: 472

This novel introduces detective Alan Grant, who features in several of Tey's crime stories. Like all of her novels, there is something unusual about The Man in the Queue; in this case the setting of the crime. A queue is waiting for tickets to the last performances of the phenomenally successful West End musical Didn't You Know?, but when the box office opens and the tightly packed queue begins to move, one man falls, dead, with a dagger in his back. Stabbed in front of hundreds of witnesses, but in a situation where nobody notices what has happened - and nobody knows the victim - the case is almost like a mirror image of the traditional crime novel. It is quite a challenging mystery, albeit with some features which are difficult to believe (why didn't the man cry out when stabbed?), and it is told in such a way that while we don't have complete information until the very end, we always know as much as Grant does.

Though Tey is best known for Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair, all her crime novels are well worth reading, and The Man in the Queue is no exception.

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