Thursday, 20 December 2001

Josephine Tey: To Love and Be Wise (1950)

Edition: Pan, 1959 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1019

I would defy anyone to work out the solution to the mystery in this novel, unless they have this particular Pan edition - it has an extremely poorly thought out cover picture which gives the whole thing away. (Therefore, no cover picture.)

American photographer Leslie Searle turns up at a London literary party, seeking out popular broadcaster Walter Whitmore, with whom he claims mutual acquaintances. Staying with him in the country, Searle makes quite an impression on the local community, especially on Whitmore's fiancée. Despite the jealousy this causes, the two men decide to collaborate on a book about the local river, travelling from its source to the sea by canoe. When Searle disappears, he is thought to have drowned in the river, his body lost; it looks like murder with no shortage of suspects, even if Whitmore is the main contender.

Tey's detective, Alan Grant, is shared between five of her eight crime novels, and is a neglected great of the genre. In this novel, his usual character seems to have been overcome with something of Campion, though this is partly because the setting is very reminiscent of Allingham - an artists' retreat in Suffolk (Orfordshire, as it is called here).

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