Friday, April 05, 2013
Five Years of Forgotten Books, Day Five (2008)
Louise Penny is the author of the forthcoming THE MURDER STONE, Book 4 in the Armand Gamache mysteries, which began with the award-winning STILL LIFE. (bio from 2008)
The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
I'm not totally convinced she's been forgotten - I sure hope she hasn't.But this is my small contribution to helping spread the word. For many years my favorite Tey book was the remarkable, The Daughter of Time. Infact, I was resistant to reading The Franchise Affair - perhaps out of a misguided sense of fidelity to The Daughter of Time. I didn't want to be seen playing footsy with another one of Tey's creations. Or, more likely, it was the ridiculous title. The Franchise Affair? I ask you. It sounds
like love among the french fries, or groping in the donuts.
Instead, when I finally succumbed and read The Franchise Affair I was treated to what I now believe is the best mystery of all time. My heart was quite stolen.
There's no body, no murder in The Franchise Affair, though it is based on the 18th century case of Elizabeth Canning. Like all of Josephine Tey's books it's about appearances vs reality. Perceptions and manipulation.Duality. What else drives a really great mystery? Not blood, not a body -but what's eating away at the marrow. Our deepest selves, hidden, masked. Then agonizingly revealed.
On the surface The Franchise Affair is about a fresh-faced young woman, barely more than a girl, who accuses an elderly woman and her spinster daughter of kidnapping and holding her in their dreary old home on the edge of the village.
Like all of Tey's works this one is short, almost novella length. And crystalline in its clarity. It is, in short, brilliant. Disturbing, witty,sightful. And more horrific than any body count could ever achieve.
Josephine Tey - a pen-name for Elizabeth MacKintosh - wrote all 6 of her mysteries between 1947 and 1952. Then she died, in her mid-50's. Almost nothing is known of the woman. No photograph exists of her. Like herbooks, she's a mystery. A real woman lurking behind a made-up one. But I
have happily given my heart to her.