A Year in Review

Since it is more than probable that I will not post any other entry in A Crime is Afoot before next year I would not like to miss this opportunity to give you a flavour of what 2021 has been like reading wise.

The 2021 highlight was the possibility that Bodies From The Library provided me to attend, via Zoom, their 2021 conference, what lead me to read the following books:

      1. Howdunit A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club, 2020 Conceived and Edited by Martin Edwards
      2. When Last I Died, 1941 (Mrs Bradley # 13) by Gladys Mitchell
      3. The Rising of the Moon, 1945 (Mrs Bradley #18) by Gladys Mitchell
      4. The Saltmarsh Murders, 1932 (Mrs Bradley # 4) by Gladys Mitchell read in 2020
      5. The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye, 1928 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries Book #3) by Brian Flynn read in 2019
      6. The Murders near Mapleton, 1929 (Bathurst Mysteries Book # 4) by Brian Flynn read in 2020
      7. Murder en Route: An Anthony Bathurst Mystery, 1930 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries Book # 8) by Brian Flynn read in 2020
      8. The Fortescue Candle, 1936 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries # 18) by Brian Flynn
      9. Tread Softly, 1937 (Anthony Bathurst Mysteries # 20) by Brian Flynn
      10. The Grindle Nightmare, 1935 by Q. Patrick
      11. Black Widow (A Peter Duluth Mystery #8), 1952 by Patrick Quentin
      12. Death’s Old Sweet Song, 1946 (Dr. Westlake #8) by Jonathan Stagge
      13. The Cases of Lieutenant Timothy Trant s.s. collection (2019) by Q. Patrick currently reading
      14. Hunt in the Dark (2021) s.s. collection by Q. Patrick, which I’m planning to read next

I would love if this experience could be repeated next year, via Zoom, since the possibilities I have to physically attend the Bodies From the Library conference in 2022 are slim.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading (only one book by author, with the exception of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson):

      1. The Judas Window, 1938 (Sir Henry Merrivale # 7) by John Dickson Carr, writing as Carter Dickson
      2. The First Time He Died (1935) by Ethel Lina White
      3. Mr Splitfoot, 1968 (Dr. Basil Willing #12) by Helen McCloy
      4. The Eye of Osiris, 1911 (Dr Thorndyke Mysteries #3) by R. Austin Freeman
      5. The Seventh Guest (1935) by Gaston Boca (transl. John Pugmire)
      6. The Lying Voices (1954) by Elizabeth Ferrars
      7. He Who Whispers, 1946 (Dr Gideon Fell # 16) by John Dickson Carr
      8. The Robthorne Mystery, 1934 (Dr Priestley #18) by John Rhode

I want to make special mention of an author I have recently discovered whose oeuvre I look forward to reading soon

Roger Ormerod (1920 –2005) was a rather prolific British writer of ingenious and densely plotted crime novels which were published in the UK and the US. He lived in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and amongst other things worked as a civil servant and as a Social Security inspector – backgrounds which he made full use of in his fiction, as he did with his hobbies of painting and photography. He wrote, if my information is correct, at least twelve standalone books; six novels in a series featuring Philipa Lowe and Oliver Simpson; 16 books in a series featuring private detective David Mallin; and 13 in his Richard and Amelia Patton series, for a total of 47 books published between 1974 and 1999, that I have identified.

Last but not least, I do want to thank Jason Half his kind invitation to take part in the Mitchell Reading Group. The December 2021 title has been Groaning Spinney (1950). For further information visit Jason Half blog, Post #1, Post #2, Post #3 and, coming soon, Post #4. This experience has enable me to realise multiple aspects of the book that, otherwise, I would have overlooked.

Tey, Josephine (1896 – 1952) [Updated on 9 December 2021]

Josephine_Tey_portraitJosephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh (25 July 1896 – 13 February 1952), a Scottish author. MacKintosh was born in Inverness, the oldest of three daughters of Colin MacKintosh, a fruiterer, and Josephine (née Horne). She attended Inverness Royal Academy and then, in 1914, Anstey Physical Training College in Erdington, a suburb of Birmingham. She taught physical training at various schools in England and Scotland and during her vacations worked at a convalescent home in Inverness as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. A youthful romance ended with her soldier friend’s death in the Somme battles. In 1923, she returned to Inverness permanently to care for her invalid mother, and stayed after her mother’s death that year to keep house for her father. While caring for her father she began her career as a writer. Her first published work was in The Westminster Gazette in 1925, under the name Gordon Daviot. She continued publishing verse and short stories in The Westminster Review, The Glasgow Herald and the Literary Review.

Her first novel, Kif: An Unvarnished History (1929), was well received at the time with good reviews, a sale to America, and a mention in The Observer’s list of Books of the Week. This work, inspired by a detachment of the 4th Cameron Highlanders, a Scottish Territorial battalion stationed at Inverness before the First World War and prominent in the city’s affairs, was an early indication of Tey’s lasting interest in military matters. Three months later, her first mystery novel, The Man in the Queue (1929), was published by Benn, Methuen. It was awarded the Dutton Mystery Prize when published in America. This is the first appearance of her detective, Inspector Alan Grant. It would be some years before she wrote another mystery.

MacKintosh’s real ambition had been to write a play which would receive a run in London’s West End. Her play Richard of Bordeaux was produced in 1932 at the Arts Theatre, under the Daviot pseudonym. Its success was such that it transferred to the New Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre) in 1933, for a year-long run. The production made a household name of its young leading man and director, John Gielgud (who became MacKintosh’s life-long friend). She wrote about a dozen one-act plays and another dozen full-length plays, many with biblical or historical themes, under the name of Gordon Daviot but none of these received notable success. .

MacKintosh’s best-known books were written under the name of Josephine Tey, which was the name of her Suffolk great-great grandmother. In five of the mystery novels, all of which except the first she wrote under the name of Tey, the hero is Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant. (Grant appears in a sixth, The Franchise Affair, as a minor character.) The most famous of these is The Daughter of Time (1951), in which Grant, laid up in hospital, has friends research reference books and contemporary documents so that he can puzzle out the mystery of whether King Richard III of England murdered his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. Grant comes to the firm conclusion that King Richard was totally innocent of the death of the princes. The Franchise Affair (1948) also has an historical context: although set in the 1940s, it is based on the 18th-century case of Elizabeth Canning. The Daughter of Time was the last of Tey’s books published during her lifetime. Her last work, a further crime novel, The Singing Sands (1952), was found in her papers and published posthumously.

Tey was intensely private, shunning all publicity throughout her life. During her last year, when she knew that she was mortally ill, she resolutely avoided all her friends as well. She died of liver cancer at her sister Mary’s home in London on 13 February 1952. Most of her friends, including Gielgud, were unaware that she was even ill. Her obituary in The Times appeared under her real name: “Miss E. Mackintosh Author of ‘Richard of Bordeaux'”.

In 1990, The Daughter of Time was selected by the British Crime Writers’ Association as the greatest crime novel of all time; The Franchise Affair was 11th on the same list of 100 books.

In 2015, Val McDermid argued that Tey “cracked open the door” for later writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell to explore the darker side of humanity, creating a bridge between the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and contemporary crime novels, because “Tey opened up the possibility of unconventional secrets. Homosexual desire, cross-dressing, sexual perversion – they were all hinted at, glimpsed in the shadows as a door closed or a curtain twitched. Tey was never vulgar nor titillating…. Nevertheless, her world revealed a different set of psychological motivations.” In 2019, Evie Jeffrey discussed Tey’s engagement with capital punishment debates in A Shilling for Candles and To Love and Be Wise. (Source: Wikipedia)

Selected Bibliography: The Man in the Queue (APA Killer in the Crowd), 1929 as Gordon Daviot (Inspector Grant #1); A Shilling for Candles, 1936 (Inspector Grant #2); Miss Pym Disposes, 1946 (standalone); The Franchise Affair, 1948 (Inspector Grant #3); Brat Farrar (APA Come and Kill Me), 1949 (standalone); To Love and Be Wise, 1950 (Inspector Grant #4); The Daughter of Time, 1951 (Inspector Grant #5); The Singing Sands, 1952 (Inspector Grant #6).

Curtis Evans asks himself at The Passing Tramp: ‘And what are your favorite Teys?’ An he answers: ‘ I think it’s safe to sat that the Big Three are The Daughter of Time, Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair, with Miss Pym Disposes perhaps nipping discreetly at their heels.  The other four Tey mystery novels tend to be comparatively neglected.  I soon will post a review of one of the latter four books.’

An Martin Edwards wrote at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’: ‘The Daughter of Time is her most famous book, but I prefer the excellent Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair.’

Besides, Martin Edwards included The Franchise Affair in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

I’m looking forward to reading soon: The Franchise Affair, Brat Farrar, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Daughter of Time.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Peter Davies, UK (1948)

11431109The Franchise Affair is a 1948 mystery novel by Josephine Tey about the investigation of a mother and daughter accused of kidnapping a local young woman. In 1990, the UK Crime Writers’ Association named it one of The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time.

Marion Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable that is, until the police turn up with a demure young woman on their doorstep. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window.

But there’s something about Betty Kane’s story that doesn’t quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. And it takes Robert Blair, local solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of The Franchise Affair

November 2021 Wrap Up

leisure_reading

For reasons irrelevant in this context, I only finished reading three books last month, but there are more to come, stay tuned.

The Body in the Silo, 1933 (Miles Bredon #3) by Ronald Knox

Sunset Over Soho, 1943 (Mrs Bradley #16) by Gladys Mithchell

Unravelled Knots: The Teahouse Detective (s. s.), 1925 by Baroness Orczy

OT: Casa de Campo Park

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Covering 1535,52 hectares, this wonderful natural space to the west of the city is Madrid’s largest public park. Its history dates back to the mid-16th century when King Philip II decided to move his court to Madrid. He created an estate that extended from the Royal Palace to El Pardo hunting ground, acquiring farms and fields in the area. Used exclusive by the royal family for centuries, in the 1930s it was finally opened to the public.

King Ferdinand VI declared it a Royal Forest, and King Charles III chose to devote some of it to agricultural use and livestock farming. But with the arrival of the Second Spanish Republic, the new government ceded ownership of the property to Madrid City Council on 1 May 1931, and it has been public property ever since. During the Civil War it suffered damage like many other sites in the city, but it also saw the construction of military structures that are still visible today.

Casa de Campo, which in Spanish means “country house”, may be an urban park but you’ll be forgiven for thinking you are in a forest. In it you’ll find a variety of flora and fauna as well as a great range of attractions: from the Parque de Atracciones amusement park, the recently renovated lake which is lined with restaurants and bars and the Madrid Zoo and Aquarium to the Cable Car (which connects Casa de Campo and Oeste Park, on the other side of the River Manzanares), conference centres, the Madrid Arena Multipurpose venue, and Venta del Batán (the place where bulls are traditionally held during the days before the bullfights at Las Ventas Bullring).

The park is very popular with sports enthusiasts, who flock to it at the weekends to run, cycle, play football or tennis or go for a swim – it’s outdoor public pool is one of Madrileños’ favourites spots in summer. The park also hosts athletics competitions, like the annual triathlon. (Source: Madrid Official tourism website)

See my previous posts here and here.

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