It's the last night a popular stage musical and a huge queue is waiting outside the theatre, hoping to pick up last minute seats. It's a long wait and people read or chat to each other in the queue. (No mobile phones in the 1920s!) At last the doors open and the people at the head of the queue move forward, apart from one man. The queue is so tight that he is held upright and no one has noticed that he is dead, knifed in the back.
Inspector Alan Grant is tasked with the job of solving the murder but first of all it's necessary to find out who the dead man is. No one comes forward to report a missing person and this proves to be a long laborious process. Eventually Grant discovers the man's identity and all the evidence points to his room-mate as the killer, although there are plenty of others whose actions are suspicious enough to arouse the policeman's curiosity.
Naturally, said room-mate goes on the run and Grant tracks him all over London and even to the west coast of Scotland. But the inspector is not a happy man. It's all too convenient and obvious somehow. Has he really caught his murderer?
I gather Josephine Tey was a very popular crime author in her day but now of course her books come under the heading of 'Vintage' Crime. I'd heard of this series but not read any of them until my eldest daughter gave me a set of books that she'd had given to her. So I now own all six of the Alan Grant books (plus two standalones) and that's really rather nifty as I liked this book an awful lot!
Alan Grant is an intelligent, thinking policeman, thankfully not an alcoholic, divorcee for once, but a chap of independent means who loves his job and goes quietly about it without any fuss. It makes a nice change! He is written very well as are the other characters in the book, particularly I thought, the women. The actress, the landlady, a particluar woman in the queue, the girl in Scotland, all very well drawn.
My favourite section was in Scotland in fact. The action moved to the west coast of that beautiful country and, for me anyway, it very much took on the flavour of a John Buchan novel. I was forcefully reminded of Huntingtower, which I read last month, not only in the excitement of the rum goings on and the chase, but also in the rather beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the isolated villages and the wild coastline. To be honest I could cheerfully read whole books along this line so perhaps it's time I got back to John Buchan.
So, this was a very satisfying read. I found it intelligent and tricky in respect of the whodunnit aspect because I never did guess who it was and I suspect most people wouldn't either. Oddly, I might have to cite that ending as a weakness in the book instead of a strength, although obviously I can't say why. Overall, I liked the book a lot and look forward to more outings with Inspector Grant.
This book qualifies for two of the challenges that I'm doing this year. Firstly, Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo 2014 under the category of 'a book with a professional detective'. And secondly, Peggy's Read Scotland 2014 and is my sixth book for that challenge.