Authors: Josephine Tey
Tags: #Crime & mystery
Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth Mackintosh (25 July 1896–13 February 1952) a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels.
Mackintosh was born in Inverness, and attended a physical training college in Birmingham before becoming a teacher. Her literary career began when she was forced to give up regular work in order to care for her invalid father.
In five of the mystery novels she wrote under the name of Josephine Tey, the hero is Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant (he appears in a sixth, The Franchise Affair, as a minor character). The most famous of these is
The Daughter of Time
, in which Grant, laid up in hospital, has friends research reference books and contemporary documents so that he can puzzle out the mystery of whether King Richard III of England murdered his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. Grant comes to the firm conclusion that King Richard was totally innocent of the death of the Princes. (The novel has influenced later mystery writers, most notably Barbara Mertz, who writes under the name "Elizabeth Peters". Mertz refers explicitly to Tey in "
The Murders of Richard the Third,
" which sets a country-house murder mystery among a group who believe that Richard III was innocent.)
The Franchise Affair
also has a historical context: although set in the 1940s, it is based on the 18th-century case of Elizabeth Canning. The Daughter of Time was the last of her books published during her lifetime. A further crime novel,
The Singing Sands
, was found in her papers and published posthumously.
As Gordon Daviot she wrote about a dozen one-act plays and another dozen full-length plays, but only four of them were produced during her lifetime.
Richard of Bordeaux
was particularly successful, running for fourteen months and making a household name of its young leading man and director, John Gielgud. Proceeds from Tey's estate, including royalties from her books, were assigned to the National Trust.
Tey appears as a main character in
An Expert In Murder
(Faber 2008) by Nicola Upson, a detective story woven around the original production of Richard of Bordeaux. The second novel in the series, Angel with Two Faces, was published in 2009; further novels are planned. Tey is mentioned in the 1982 Stephen King novella,
The verses in Chapter 15 are quoted from
A Soldier Looks at Beauty
, by Hugh P. F. McIntosh.
This book is fiction, and all the characters and incidents in it are entirely imaginary
GRANT paused with his foot on the lowest step, and listened to the shrieking from the floor above. As well as the shrieks there was a dull continuous roar; an elemental sound, like a forest fire or a river in spate. As his reluctant legs bore him upwards he arrived at the inevitable deduction: the party was being a success.
He was not going to the party. Literary sherry parties, even distinguished ones, were not Grant's cup of tea. He was going to collect Marta Hallard and take her out to dinner. Policemen, it is true, do not normally take out to dinner leading actresses who gravitate between the Haymarket and the Old Vic; not even when the policemen are Detective-Inspectors at Scotland Yard. There were three reasons for his privileged position, and Grant was aware of all three. In the first place he was a presentable escort, in the second place he could afford to dine at Laurent's, and in the third place Marta Hallard did not find it easy to obtain escort. For all her standing, and her chic, men were a little afraid of Marta. So when Grant, a mere Detective-Sergeant then, appeared in her life over a matter of stolen jewellery, she had seen to it that he did not entirely fade out of it again. And Grant had been glad to stay. If he was useful to Marta as a cavalier when she needed one, she was even more useful to him as a window on the world. The more windows on the world a policeman has the better he is likely to be at his job, and Marta was Grant's 'leper's squint' on the theatre.
The roar of the party's success came flooding out through the open doors on to the landing, and Grant paused to look at the yelling crowd asparagus-packed into the long Georgian room and to wonder how he was going to pry Marta out of it.
Just inside the door, baffled apparently by the solid wall of talking and drinking humanity, was a young man, looking lost. He still had his hat in his hand, and had therefore just arrived.
'In difficulties?' Grant said, catching his eye.
'I've forgotten my megaphone,' the young man said.
He said it in a gentle drawl, not bothering to compete with the crowd. The mere difference in pitch made the words more audible than if he had shouted. Grant glanced at him again, approvingly. He was a very good-looking young man indeed, now that he took notice. Too blond to be entirely English. Norwegian, perhaps?
Or American. There was something in the way he said 'forgotten' that was transatlantic.
The early spring afternoon was already blue against the windows and the lamps were lit. Across the haze of cigarette smoke Grant could see Marta at the far end of the room listening to Tullis the play-wright telling her about his royalties. He did not have to hear what Tullis was talking about to know that he was talking about his royalties; that is all Tullis ever talked about. Tullis could tell you, off-hand, what the Number Two company of his
Supper for Three
took on Easter Monday in Blackpool in 1938. Marta had given up even a pretence of listening, and her mouth drooped at the corners. Grant thought that if that D.B.E. did not come along soon Marta would be disappointed into the need for a face-lifting. He decided to stay where he was until he could catch her eye. They were both tall enough to see over the heads of a normal crowd.
With a policeman's ingrained habit of inspection he let his eye run over the crowd between them, but found nothing of interest. It was the usual collection. The very prosperous firm of Ross and Cromarty were celebrating the publication of Lavinia Fitch's twenty-first book, and since it was largely due to Lavinia that the firm was prosperous the drinks were plentiful and the guests were distinguished. Distinguished in the sense of being well-dressed and well-known, that is to say. The distinguished in achievement did not celebrate the birth of
, nor drink the sherry of Messrs Ross and Cromarty. Even Marta, that inevitable Dame, was here because she was a neighbour of Lavinia's in the country. And Marta, bless her black-and-white chic and her disgruntled look, was the nearest thing to real distinction in the room.
Unless, of course, this young man whom he did not know brought more than good looks to the party. He wondered what the stranger did for a living. An actor? But an actor would not stand baffled at the edge of a crowd. And there was something in the implied comment of his remark about the megaphone, in the detachment with which he was watching the scene, that divorced him from his surroundings. Was it possible, Grant wondered, that those cheekbones were being wasted in a stockbroker's office? Or was it perhaps that the soft light of Messrs Ross and Cromarty's expensive lamps flattered that nice straight nose and the straight blond hair and that the young man was less beautiful in the daylight?
'Perhaps you can tell me,' said the young man, still not raising his voice in emulation, 'which is Miss Lavinia Fitch?'
Lavinia was the sandy little woman by the middle window. She had bought herself a fashionable hat for the occasion, but had done nothing to accommodate it; so that the hat perched on her bird's-nest of ginger hair as if it had dropped there from an upper window as she walked along the street. She was wearing her normal expression of pleased bewilderment and no make-up.
Grant pointed her out to the young man.
'Stranger in town?' he said, borrowing a phrase from all good Westerns. The polite formality of 'Miss Lavinia Fitch' could have come only from the U.S.A.
'I'm really looking for Miss Fitch's nephew. I looked him up in the book and he isn't there, but I hoped he'd be here. Do you happen to know him, Mr——?
'I know him by sight, but he isn't here. Walter Whitmore, you mean?'
'Yes. Whitmore. I don't know him at all, but I want very much to meet him because we have—had, I mean—a great friend in common. I was sure he'd be here. You're quite sure he isn't? After all, it's quite a party.'
'He isn't in this room; I know that, because Whitmore is as tall as I am. But he may still be around somewhere. Look, you had better come and meet Miss Fitch. I suppose we can get through the barricade if we have the determination.'
'You lean and I'll squirm,' said the young man, referring to their respective build. 'This is very kind of you, Mr Grant,' he said as they came up for air half-way, wedged tightly together between the hedged elbows and shoulders of their fellows; and he laughed up at the helpless Grant. And Grant was suddenly disconcerted. So disconcerted that he turned immediately and continued his struggle through the jungle to the clearing at the middle window where Lavinia Fitch was standing.
'Miss Fitch,' he said, 'here is a young man who wants to meet you. He is trying to get in touch with your nephew.'
'With Walter?' said Lavinia, her peaked little face losing its muzzy expression of general benevolence and sharpening to real interest.
'My name is Searle, Miss Fitch. I'm over from the States on holiday and I wanted to meet Walter because Cooney Wiggin was a friend of mine too.'
'Cooney! You are a friend of Cooney's? Oh, Walter will be delighted, my dear, simply delighted. Oh, what a nice surprise in the middle of this—I mean, so unexpected. Walter
be pleased. Searle, did you say?'
'Yes. Leslie Searle. I couldn't find Walter in the book——'
'No, he has just a pied-à-terre in town. He lives down at Salcott St Mary like the rest of us. Where he has the farm, you know. The farm he broadcasts about. At least it's my farm but he runs it and talks about it and——. He's broadcasting this afternoon, that is why he isn't coming to the party. But you must come down and stay. Come down this weekend. Come back with us this afternoon.'
'But you don't know if Walter——'
'You don't have any engagements for the weekend, do you?'
'No. No, I haven't. But——'
'Well, then. Walter is going straight back from the studio, but you can come with Liz and me in our car and we'll surprise him. Liz! Liz, dear, where are you? Where are you staying, Mr Searle?'
'I'm at the Westmorland.'
'Well, what could be handier. Liz! Where
'Here, Aunt Lavinia.'
'Liz, dear, this is Leslie Searle, who is coming back with us for the weekend. He wants to meet Walter because they were both friends of Cooney's. And this is Friday, and we are all going to be at Salcott over the weekend recovering from this—being nice and quiet and peaceful, so what could be more appropriate. So, Liz dear, you take him round to the Westmorland and help him pack and then come back for me, will you? By that time this—the party will surely be over, and you can pick me up and we'll go back to Salcott together and surprise Walter.'
Grant saw the interest in the young man's face as he looked at Liz Garrowby, and wondered a little. Liz was a small plain girl with a sallow face. True, she had remarkable eyes; speedwell blue and surprising; and she had the kind of face a man might want to live with; she was a nice girl, Liz. But she was not the type of girl at whom young men look with instant attention. Perhaps it was just that Searle had heard rumours of her engagement, and was identifying her as Walter Whitmore's fiancée.
He lost interest in the Fitch ménage as he saw that Marta had spotted him. He indicated that he would meet her at the door, and plunged once more into the suffocating depths. Marta, being the more ruthless of the two, did the double distance in half the time and was waiting for him in the doorway.
'Who is the beautiful young man?' she asked, looking backwards as they moved to the stairs.
'He came looking for Walter Whitmore. He says he's a friend of Cooney Wiggin.'