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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
The Man in the Queue - Josephine Tey Tey is a beautifully compelling writer, and I re-read her fairly often. This, the first of her Inspector Grant books, is not one of my favourites, however. Grant is an urbane, handsome, charming, generous, polite and well-dressed paragon of policing and there's just a little too much over-emphasis of this in this introductory volume (I almost expected him to have a little fan club trailing him about).More problematically, this is a book of its time - post First World War, with a 'gentleman' detective - and while I can shrug off the subtle classism, paragraphs like this make me stumble:Idly he considered what type of man it would be. No thorough Englishman used such a weapon. If he used steel at all he took a razor and cut a person's throat. But his habitual weapon was a bludgeon, and, failing that, a gun. This was a crime that had been planned with an ingenuity and executed with a subtlety that was foreign to an Englishman's habit of thought. The very femininity of it proclaimed the dago, or at the very least one used to dago habits of life.Grant constantly refers to the subject of his pursuit as "the dago" - even after he proves to be an Englishman who served in the war - and some of the statements he makes about apparently nation-related personality traits, could quickly get up a modern reader's nose.Interestingly, though, although it is never outright stated in the book, the resolution of the plot makes clear that Grant's prejudice is working against him here. The 'dago' is innocent and honourable, and he is so fixated on him he neglects other clues and does not even find the criminal himself - the crime was committed by a stolid and not particularly ingenious Englishwoman. I'm not certain if Tey intended for us to read this story as a warning against prejudices, but it works quite well to read it that way. At the same time, the suggestion that a man who refused to give up his girl and was going to shoot her because she didn't want to be with him any more, is to be pitied and isn't a villain, was another bump to get over in this reading.Tey is an excellent writer, but it is definitely a book where a couple of modern sensibilities need to be checked at the door.