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Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I am trying hard to mix my reads because I sometimes feel that I get so entrenched in one kind of read (particularly WWI and II) that the reviews seem to get a much of a sameness. Does this happen to other bloggers? 

Josephine Tey's mystery murders is a bit different. Also set in a gentler era it maybe a murder and quite a bit of mystery but it still seems to go at a much slower rate than more modern stories! Our Robert Blair is the hero of the piece. A plain country solicitor living in a small Midlands town, he is a position of respectability and comfort. He does conveyancing and umpteen number of wills and his only other interest is golfing with his cronies. He is also unmarried lives with an Aunt who looks after him so splendidly that the thought of marriage has hardly crossed his mind. Her dinners and baking are famous!

Marion Sharpe crosses his path in the most unexpected form when she and her elderly mother are accused of the bizarre - they are supposedly guilty of abduction of a sixteen year old, keeping her hidden in an attic and beating her black and blue. She has supposedly escaped from this prison, gone back to her parents and related the story. They have naturally gone to the police and hence the appearance of our Robert.

Robert does not want to take the case. He has no experience of criminal law and says so but Miriam is adamant. What follows is the story of meticulous deduction and follow up. The media blows the whole thing up to make it more scandalous than ever. The house called The Franchise is attacked, everyone looks askance at the Sharpe's, they are ostracized in the local tea room and the grocer and life seems to be very harsh. The girl looks and sounds so innocent, her recollection and description of the house and its contents so accurate that no one can even imagine that she was not an occupant of the house.

Despite the media hype and the way the people of the town react, very early on you do know what is going on. How Tey handles it is the clever part. The analysis of human behaviour and why we do what we do. How someone who can be very young and what you think of as being without life's experiences can act and react and behave the way they do is somewhat startling. The book is also very representative of a them and us attitude. Is it the era and the Englishness of it all? There is a sense of gentry and gentility and the working class, a feeling of a woman's place in the general scheme of things and that one should not get above one's station.

The book apart from the mystery/murder aspect was a whole story of a way of life. Looking at it from a contemporary angle it is somewhat difficult to swallow some preconceived notions but it was a fine piece of writing anyway.

The book was a download from Open Library.


  1. I really enjoy her writing -- she has a certain slowness in her style that I appreciate. I must have read this one a very long time ago as I can't remember anything about it and now I want to read it again.

  2. Thanks for a terrific review, Mystica.I am a huge fan of Josephine Tey though I must add that THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR has never been my most favorite of Tey's books. Still, I read it and found it intriguing as well as interesting.

    My favorite Tey books are THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, BRAT FARRAR and A SHILLING FOR CANDLES. Don't miss these if you haven't read them. That's my unsolicited advice. :)

  3. This sounds good! I used to have a collection of Tey books, but they were in such poor condition that there was no way to read them. They were very old editions. I never did read anything by Tey, but I've always wanted to.

    I try to mix up my reading too, by the way. It keeps me from tiring of one kind of book too quickly--and I do like variety.:-)