Josephine Tey •
To Love and Be Wise •
Josephine Tey is such a pleasure to read that I’m always surprised her mysteries aren’t better known. In every one of her books you get finely drawn characters, believable situations, tight plots, and lively humor.
Lavinia Fitch, the novelist within To Love and Be Wise, gets so distressed at one point that she says of her heroine, “Who cares what the silly moron does! Let her stay in the blasted window and starve!” When it’s suggested that a notoriously sentimental character—“that lover of little bunnies”—has pushed someone into a river, Sergeant Williams opines, “He’s more of a push-ee.” Who really did what to who, and how they almost get away with it, makes for riveting reading.
Tey—whose work was said to be the inspiration for Raymond Chandler—was also an accomplished playwright, and several of her novels are set in the world of the theater (A Shilling for Candles, The Man in the Queue). Apart from the books involving Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, there are those where ordinary people are faced with suspicious occurrences (The Franchise Affair, Miss Pym Disposes) and one case of questionable identity (Brat Farrar).
“Are you the star turn at Scotland Yard?” someone asks Grant in this book. No, he assures her, “I come in bundles.” You certainly don’t seem like something out of a bundle, she answers.
The same could be said of Tey.