To Love and Be Wise

To Love and Be Wise - Josephine Tey, Robert Barnard I've recently been rereading the Josephine Tey mysteries. Sadly, there aren't many--only eight of them. One of the pleasures of reading To Love and Be Wise after almost all of the others was recognizing allusions to the prior novels, such as Jerry Lamont, a suspect in The Man in the Queue; Jammy Hopkins, the sensationalist journalist from A Shilling for Candles; and several characters that would get a mention in The Daughter of Time such as Benny Skoll, and novelists Lavinia Fitch and Silas Weekly. Lavinia Fitch actually has a prominent role in this novel, as she plays hostess to American photographer Leslie Searle. Inspector Alan Grant meets the "beautiful young man" briefly at a party. Weeks later he'll be investigating Searle's disappearance and possible murder. Lavinia says of Searle she's "sure that he was something very wicked in Ancient Greece" and her guest has an unsettling effect on all around him. Her Inspector Alan Grant has rather grown on me through the novels. He's no Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. He's not at all flashy or eccentric and his strong suit isn't brilliant deductions, but what his superior calls "flair." In other words, he's an intuitive detective--sometimes his gut doesn't match his head, and sometimes his gut and his prejudices lead him wrong. He's about the most fallible detective protagonist I've ever read. I love Tey's style--spare, lyrical and witty and her characters are delightfully individualized. Even though I don't think this is one of her best novels, it may be her best mystery. Tey tends not to care much about devising perfect little puzzle pieces. She certainly plays fair this time--the clues are all there, even if very quietly dropped in, and I do remember the twist as a surprise first time reading, which makes for a delicious denouement.