Though Josephine Tey is not, perhaps, as well known as Agatha Christie, her contribution to the Golden Age of mysteries is unquestioned. In contrast to Christie, Tey rejected formulas and long-running series in favor of experimentation with new settings and odd conjunctions of character and subject matter. Her historical tale The Daughter of Time is frequently cited as one of the greatest mysteries of all time.
The Franchise Affair resembles some of the best work of Poe in its introduction of an apparently inhuman evil in an otherwise sedate country setting. Robert Blair, a lawyer who prides himself on his ability to avoid work of any significance, is interrupted one evening by a phone call from Marion Sharpe. Ms. Sharpe and her mother live in a run-down estate known as the Franchise, and their lives drew little attention until Betty Kane charged them with an unthinkable crime. Ms. Kane, having disappeared for a month, now says that she was held captive in the attic of the Franchise during her entire absence. While her story seems absurd, her recollection of minute details about the interior of the house sway even Scotland Yard. Blair--who Ms. Sharpe has chosen for her defense because, as she says, he is "someone of my own sort"--must dust off his neurons and undertake some serious sleuthing if his client is to beat these serious charges. As with all fine mysteries, one has the sense of being in a sea of clues with a solution just out of reach. The Franchise Affair is a classic mystery, and also a superb record of country life in early twentieth century England. --Patrick O'Kelley [via]