Monday, May 30, 2016
Review of The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey (1929, Penguin)
The Man in the Queue was published in 1929 with Josephine Tey using the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot. It was her first published crime novel. It’s a somewhat curious book being highly uneven in its telling (with some overlong descriptive pieces that little move the story on, as well as quite astute observation), utilising some fairly clumsy plot devices (e.g., no labels on or identifying material in his clothes), and some parts making little sense (e.g., not re-interviewing an actress, using description of victim rather than circulating a photo or sketch of his face, not arresting the prime suspect at first opportunity when cornered). Moreover, the book has some fairly racist undertones (e.g., Grant knew … the Dago’s rat-like preference for the sewers rather than the open’; as well other assignments of characteristics on the basis of appearance). The ending, in particular, is very weak with a hurried denouement which feels contrived and awkwardly staged. All of this was somewhat of a surprise given the high regard in which Tey is held by crime fiction aficionados (in 1990 the CWA selected The Daughters of Time as the greatest crime novel of all time and The Franchise Affair came in eleventh). However, reading other reviews the consensus seems to be that The Man in the Queue is her weakest outing and is definitely not the one a new to Tey reader should try first.