Josephine Tey is a pen names of Scottish author Elizabeth Macintosh (1896-1952). The Franchise Affair is one of a number of mystery stories she gave us, and it’s a dandy. The crime is not murder, but an alleged kidnapping and torture of a teen-aged girl. At first it seems an open-and-shut case, but we gradually learn that things are not quite what they seem.
Though it’s not nearly as complex a plot as that of Wilkie Collins’ masterpiece, The Woman in White, this book reminded me of it in some small way. Marion, a strong and intelligent woman, is a major character, and it is a lawyer turned amateur detective who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened.
Ms. Tey handles the English language beautifully, and developments in the plot will keep the pages turning. The crime is solved convincingly. And though the ending of the book is left a little ambiguous, but we romantics are able to imagine the outcome. Recommended.
It was a good idea to publish again the works of Josephine Tey. She was very popular in her time in the 1920s and 1930s, and even though not all her novels are on the same level, the Franchise Affair is a very good one. It happens often- the word of one party that a crime was committed, stands against the innocent party, who doesn't have any contra argument. How to prove that it simply didn't happen? The book is not about looking for any perpetrator, but about establishing who is telling the truth. The reader slowly comes to realize that the accusation was false, but, I was most taken by the description of the power of the media and the reaction of the newspapers readers, which made it impossible for those once accused, to continue living in the old village. "The paper said so." How contemporary! How up-to-date! It is one of the very few books, now published, which warns against the power of public opinion, the easy possibility of influence from the media, the manipulation, the hatred. The minority, the poor, the underprivileged may not always be right, they may be made an instrument of somebody else's interests, as has happened so many times in history. This important book reminds us that people before us were facing similar problems as we are and they did not always give way to what was considered politically correct.
Teenager Betty Kane, bruised and sore after being missing for weeks, claims that she was abducted by two women and coerced into doing maid service for them before she managed to escape. The young girl is very innocent looking and has a spotless reputation. Furthermore, she describes the place of her imprisonment with great accuracy, although the two women, mother and daughter, claim that they have never seen her before. Robert Blair, suddenly bored with the routine law practice which has been in the family for generations, takes on the case for the two women, the younger of whom becomes more and more attractive to him. He is totally convinced of their innocence and develops a burning passion not only to prove them blameless but also to expose the girl as a brazen fraud. But after a scandal sheet exposes the case to the world, public opinion is so strong against the ladies that they and their property are in constant danger. There are some weaknesses in the plot. For instance, after long and diligent investigation by a top-notch private detective, the solution just drops in out of the blue from a most unexpected source. But Tey handles the whole thing so well that it seems perfectly plausible. The characterizations are excellent, and the reader will have a strong sympathy for the women and for Blair. The second half of the book is a real page turner. And the ending has a very nice, satisfying touch. This novel is almost as good as Tey's BRAT FARRAR.
This is not your typical murder mystery; in fact, the crime is not murder, but possibly a worse one: false accusation of a kidnapping and beating. The resolution may be a little disappointing in that a portion of it comes about not as a result of sleuthing, but pretty much out of the blue. Nonetheless, the characterizations are finely drawn, and the suspense maintained to the end. At the end one might suspect that this has not really been a mystery at all, but another kind of fiction in the form of a mystery. My own rereading tends to confirm this idea at least for myself. It also confirms that the mystery elements have been dealt with fairly by the author, including the suitcases, which are explained within a few paragraphs of their introduction. Along the way, the author takes more than a few potshots at "woolly thinking", entertaining in their own right. It's a pity we have only about eight novels from her, since half are outstanding in their own sui-generis way.
I have just had a thought. There is no explanation as to how horrible Betty Kane actually found out so much about the insides of The Franchise to be able to describe it in so much detail. They made it obvious that she had never been in the house with the whole view from the attic not including the circular drive thing. But how about all the suitcases and the intimate details about the kitchen and the attic? I was thinking that she may have had some help from the thieving maid, but it would not appear so. So how did she describe everything so accurately? Does anyone have any ideas? Please email me if you do. I am very perturbed, disturbed and frustrated!