Bibliophile reviews To love and be wise by Josephine Tey

A belated Merry Christmas!

I apologise for the long break, but I have been working on a translation and have had neither time nor inclination to write reviews.

Series detective: Inspector Grant
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 1950
Type of mystery: Missing person, possible homicide
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Rural England, 1950s
Some themes:

...there was never proud man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth of the person loved; and therefore it was well said, that it is impossible to love, and to be wise.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), "On Love"

I thought it suitable to give the relevant full quote from which the book's title is derived, as it has a bearing on the story told in the book.

Said story is a delicious detective tale that knowingly and effectively breaks one of Van Dine's principal rules of detective fiction, but since it would give away too much to reveal which one, I will leave it to you to find out. I will say that a character in the book manages to disprove Bacon's statement, but to find out more you must read the book.

Story: Leslie Searle, an accomplished and famous photographer of the rich and famous, is invited to stay with Walter Whitmore, a famous radio show host, at his country house. Leslie charms almost everyone there, not the least Walter's fiancée, Liz, much to her mother's consternation. Walter and Leslie decide to make a book together about a river that runs through the village, Walter writing the text and Leslie taking the photographs. On the night of the fourth day of their journey down the river by canoe, Leslie disappears without a trace and Inspector Grant of the Scotland Yard is called in to investigate what proves to be a very difficult case indeed.

Review: The story is enjoyable and is told in a flowing and slyly humorous style, even when the suspicions of foul play are the strongest. Tey is the only author I have come across who can make Georgette Heyer's light and humorous style look ponderous by comparison. I wouldn't have noticed this except the book I read ahead of this one was a Heyer mystery.

I can't say much about the plotting, as it would give away too much, but let's suffice to say that if you enjoy detective stories only if they follow the rules slavishly, you will probably be upset by it. If, on the other hand, you enjoy seeing how the rules can be broken while still telling an enjoyable story, you will enjoy it – perhaps even love it – as I did.

Rating: A highly enjoyable and somewhat unorthodox detective tale. 4 stars.


jenclair said…
Synchronicity - I love it. I was just thinking about re-reading. There aren't that many books that call me to reread them, and I was thinking about which ones do. Often, the ones that I reread are those that are from years ago. Jospehine Tey is an author that I would like to visit again - especially The Daughter of Time. Tey's novels would be a great place to start!

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