My second completed book for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate is The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey. It fills the category of “Classic Crime Story”. The book was published in 1929 and was Tey’s first book as well as the first Inspector Grant Mystery.
The mystery/crime is established in the first chapter when a man who had been waiting in a crowded line of people, all pressing and pushing to get their SRO tickets for London’s hottest musical is found stabbed to death. The other theatergoers of course saw nothing as they were paying more attention to getting to the front of the line than they were about the people around them. The case is then handed over to Scotland Yard’s rising talent, Inspector Alan Grant. The man had no identification on him so Inspector Grant has not only to find out who killed him but also who the victim was.
I quite enjoyed the procedural aspects detection in this book: tracking down tie manufacturers, tracing bank notes and so on. I equally liked the undercover aspects of the story as Grant sends his sergeants disguised as peddlers or down-on-their-luck soldiers to gather information from gossipy maids and he himself travels to the Scottish highlands posing as a casual angler, but of course he is casting for more than just fish! I also think that Tey really does excel in her characterization. The supporting cast in this book is really well drawn, in particular Miss Diamont and Mrs. Everett in my opinion. I think either of them could have walked off the pages and on to their own novels! I think it is a pity that Tey didn’t write many non-genre novels, though she died fairly young (in her early 50s), so who knows what she would have accomplished had she had more time?
Where the book is weakest, is in its plotting. And while, as I stated above, there is a lot of interesting detective work in following up clues, Tey breaks one of the “rules” of detective fiction in allowing her main detective to be ruled by intuition over facts sometimes. That said, I enjoyed some of the red herrings in the story anyway!
Just as a caveat, as is often with books of this era, there is a fair amount of casual sexism and racism contained within the pages. Also, The Man in the Queue isn’t going to knock The Daughter of Time off its top spot as my favorite of Tey’s books, but I did find it a satisfying read.