The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

The Man in the QueueThe Man in the Queue: “It was between seven and eight o’clock on a March evening and all over London the bars were being drawn back from pit and gallery doors.”

Ah, finally I managed to find some time to read a Josephine Tey novel!!  I’ve been seeing so many reviews of her novels on other book blogs and hearing so many good things about her writing that I was keen to experience it myself.  Initially, I’d planned to start with her lauded Daughter of Time but instead decided to begin with her first novel, The Man in the Queue.

It is nearly the final showing at the Woffington Theatre of Didn’t You Know? starring the famous actress Ray Markable, and the line for tickets stretches far and wide.  People murmur and jostle and mill about in excited anticipatory impatience.  The wait seems endless but finally the line begins to advance ….. a woman moves forward and ……. a man falls down dead behind her, stabbed by a long stiletto blade.  The shock is palpable as people quickly move away.  Who could have done it? …. Who has murdered the man in the queue?

La queue à la porte d'une épicerie

La queue à la porte d’une épicerie (19th century) Félix Potin ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is given the case and the initial inquires are baffling. Why didn’t the husband and wife standing behind the murdered man see the killer?  What about the woman standing in front of him?  She claims ignorance as well.  And who is the man?  From painstaking and doggedly following the leads, Grant finally discovers the identity of the corpse but his discovery simply brings up more questions.  Why was the man booked to sail to America?  Why did he insist that his best friend not come to see him off?  And does that said friend have any involvement in the mystery, perhaps being the killer himself?  Grant uses his razor-sharp intellect to navigate the murky waters of the mystery to finally catch a killer and bring justice to the man in the queue.

The Queue at the Fish Shop

The Queue at the Fish Shop (1944) Evelyn Dunbar ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Even though this is my first novel of Tey’s, I can already tell she will not disappoint me with her other novels.  Why?  Because her writing is excellent.  The plot is distinctly delineated yet is still very interesting and each discovery builds either more tension or births more questions that clearly want for answers.  My only quibble with this novel is that the final solution to the mystery is rather a matter of chance, so the reader cannot expect to be led to it by a succession of careful deduction.  However, Tey crafts solid, believable characters and the backdrop of the 1920s resonates throughout the novel, pulling the reader right into its depths.  If this is the level of Tey’s first novel, I can’t wait to read her others!!

24 thoughts on “The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey

  1. “Queue” is not one of her best efforts… I’d been trying to get Mrs. M to read “Daughter of Time” for a while and she finally did… she agreed with me that it was one of the best books she’s read… you have a treat awaiting; i can’t wait until i read your post on it… good perusing!

    • Argh! That means if I read them in order it will be awhile before I get to Daughter of Time. Should I skip to it, do you think? I’m tempted …… I’m so glad to hear it’s THAT good!

  2. The only Josephine Tey I read was Daughter of Time and It was brilliant. I am not sure why I did not venture further and read more, because that book is astounding. I guess so many books and so little time….I would recommend you trying Daughter of Time and I will go dig up more of Tey’s books! Great post as always!

    • Thanks, Cirtnecce! I think I might skip to Daughter of Time based on the glowing recommendations. I “inherited” a few of her books which was why I decided to read them in order but I don’t want to miss a good thing! Let me know if you read any more Tey!

  3. I will have to check this out. I absolutely loved Daughter of Time. Definitely read that one next. 🙂

    • Oooo, another thumbs up for Daughter of Time. Now I’m completely intrigued! Yes, ma’am! 😉 I’m going to dig it out!

  4. Another vote for Daughter of Time here. 😀

    But I also liked The Man in the Queue. I read it last year I think. I agree the plotting was weak, but I really loved the details…the visits to the tie manufacturer, the tracing of the bank notes. And I also enjoyed the officers going undercover to unearth information.

    I’ve read six Tey titles now and found them all to be quite different from each other. But always fun to read.

    • Wow, Ruthiella.
      At book club, when we discussed DoT, my friend said she liked best another title, The Franchise Affair. I want to read that one too!

    • Yes, the details were really interesting and quite unique! I’ve just started A Shilling for Candles. I figure I should be able to get to Daughter of Time reasonably quickly as Tey’s writing gets you hooked! I’m so glad I finally decided to try her!

    • The good thing about Tey’s books is that they’re an easy read in an afternoon or two. I do hope you’re able to read another one of hers before the summer is out!

  5. This was my first Tey as well and after reading it I went on a quest to get every Tey mystery. Sadly, my quest is over because she only wrote about seven books. They are all excellent and Inspector Grant is a favorite detective. He’s a lot more human than most.

    What you will find, also, is that Tey is not formulaic. Her mysteries are quite unpredictable and the psychology behind the characters is pretty deep.

    • I think I was given all her books except Daughter of Time which I own in any case. However, I can’t seem to find it at the moment. I’ll have to have a hunt for it this evening. I’ve started A Shilling for Candles and am already completely drawn in!

  6. After reading The Daughter of Time, I kept thinking I should read something more by her, but I haven’t to this point. I understand why you would want to read an author’s work by published date as I do that, too, so I can see the conundrum you face with all these comments….good luck! 🙂

  7. Oh, gosh, Cleo–I’m so late getting back to you about this post.
    I have only read A Daughter of Time and LOVED IT. It’s been some years since I read it, but I think I may need to put her books on my list, but maybe, just maybe I’ll read The Daughter of Time again first. Happy reading!

    • And I’m late getting back to you too, lol! Summer is a busy time but it’s nice to know you’re still around the book-world! I’m making my way towards Daughter of Time. It’s the first book EVERYONE seems to have loved and I can’t wait to get to it!

  8. I’ve read just about all her books except for the first two! I was all over the place with the order of reading as it’s rare to find her books 2nd hand here. Did you know you her books are on kindle at ebooksadelaide? I never read books on devices or I would have read all of them by now. I read To Love & Be Wise not long ago. It was good bit not my favourite. I loved The Franchise Affair & Brat Farrar best, I think.

    • And I soon will have read her first two and not the others so we are inverted, aren’t we? 😉 I’d forgotten about ebooksadelaide so thanks for the tip! I have them all in paperback but if I go on holidays, I usually just take my Kindle so it would be nice to have them there too. Gosh, Tey sounds like a treasure. I should make her my summer reading project!

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