Top mysteries challenge review: The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I must admit up front that I have a soft spot for Josephine Tey, so you may expect some prejudice in the review ;-)

Year of publication: 1949
Genre: Mystery
Type of mystery: Kidnapping
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: England, contemporary

A teenage girl accuses two women of having kidnapped her and held her against her will for a month. The case seems to be solid, but solicitor Robert Blair, retained by the accused to speak for them, is convinced of the innocence of his clients and sets out to prove it.

This is the second Tey novel I read that effectively breaks one of S.S. Van Dine's detective story writing rules, and I admire her for making it so readable, because it is rule no. 7 that is broken: There shall be but one crime, and that crime is murder (my rephrasing).

It is difficult to sustain reader interest in a mystery without a corpse for nearly 300 pages, but Tey not only pulls it off, she does it so well that I could hardly put the book down. It is written with her customary light hand, humorous and full of interesting characters, twists and other unexpected developments, and it is realistic and condemning in its depiction of mob justice and the power of the press to influence public opinion and pass judgement on people before they have ever been brought to trial. As a matter of fact, I think it should be recommended reading for anyone studying the mass media, because of how realistically it depicts the modern version of a media-fuelled witch hunt. 4+ stars.

P.S. The novel is apparently inspired by the real-life case of Elizabeth Canning.

Books left in challenge: 86

Place on the list(s): CWA #11; MWA # 81.

Awards and nominations: None I know of.


Dorte H said…
Actually I think it is one of the strong points of old crime novels that they didn´t believe it was necessary to kill off a whole bunch of people.
I agree. They did sustained threat better in those days. This sounds like a great story. The Canning story is a good one too.
Bibliophile said…
I agree. Many modern crime writers seem to think there has to be a corpse every 50 pages or so to keep the reader's interest, but all a really good crime novel needs is a good starting premise, interesting characters and good plotting.

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