I recently discovered classic mystery author Josephine Tey. A patron and a colleague had told me about her years ago, and I filed the name away until Nancy Pearl mentioned Tey as well. And like many other readers in Seattle, when Nancy Pearl says something is good, you move that book or author to the front of your list!
In Brat Farrar,Simon Ashby is about to turn 21 and get his inheritance. His twin, Patrick, died years before. Or so everyone thought. Suddenly Patrick shows up and tells him that he didn’t fall off that cliff after all–he ran away. What does this mean for Simon, or his sisters who still expect to stay in the Ashby home? (You can read more about Brat Farrar in a blog post I wrote for Book Group Buzz.)
Then I sunk my teeth into her most beloved work, The Daughter of Time. I wanted a quick, enthralling book to read, and as soon as I turned the first page I found that I adored the book’s main character, Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard detective who is laid up in hospital after falling through a trap door. Grant is a smart, snarky sort and he loves a good puzzle. Plus, his confinement is driving him crazy. When a friend brings him a portrait of Richard III, Grant uses his natural talent in reading faces and investigative acumen for the task of finding out if Richard III really was the monster who everyone believes had his nephews in the Tower killed. Was Richard III really a murderer, or could the history books be wrong? For a mystery that is more than 400 years old, and for a book that was published in 1951, The Daughter of Time feels insightful and fresh.
People are still talking about The Daughter of Time. Dana Stabenow credits Tey for inspiring her to write crime fiction in this blog post and here is a Washington Post article that also sheds some light on Tey’s staying power. Incidentally, Josephine Tey also turns up as the main character in a new mystery series by Nicola Upson (an Expert in Murder is the first). So now you have no excuse but to give Ms. Tey a try!