The Man in the Queue - Josephine Tey For some reason the only novels by Josephine Tey that I have read previously are The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair, both in my long-distant teenage past. I loved the former of these books and liked the latter, but until now I had not felt inspired to seek out Tey's other works.

I'm glad that I finally did, for there's a lot to love about this example of British Golden Age detective fiction. Tey writes beautifully. Her prose is intelligent, lucid and witty and she deals equally well with dialogue and description. The novel has a great sense of style. I particularly love the opening chapter, which is marvellously evocative of time and place. I also love the description of the Scottish Highlands, which Tey renders with a light touch and considerable humour. However the text does demonstrate some weaknesses. For example, a first person narrator appears from time to time: apparently the authorial voice, because it is not otherwise identified. The effect is somewhat jarring, but the irregular appearance of the narrator may simply be the result of Tey's inexperience, as this was her first novel.

Tey's detective, Scotland Yard inspector Alan Grant, lacks the indiosyncrasies of his fictional comptemporaries, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey. He can't be immediately visualised from the text. However, it would be wrong to say that Grant is a dull character, for he has considerable charm and intelligence. That said, one of the surprises in this novel is that Grant does not actually solve the crime. The resolution is brought about through something of a deus ex machina, although hints to the resolution are there in the text. I was at first inclined to think this a weakness, but have since decided that, while unusual, it is a strength of Tey's ability to plot. It is the reality, after all. Crimes are solved sometimes through hard work, sometimes through the brilliance of the detective and sometimes through luck. There's room in crime fiction to explore all of these possibilities.

The casual racism of pre-World War II crime fiction is evident in this novel, with a confronting repetition of the term "dago" to describe the suspected criminal. However, the confounding of the detective's assumptions and prejudices in the resolution of the crime makes the use of the term ultimately less offensive than it might otherwise be.

Overall, this was a worthwhile read for fans of Golden Age British crime fiction. Probably a 3-1/2 star read.