Saturday, January 14, 2017

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey (the nom de plume of Inverness-born Elizabeth Mackintosh) first published this remarkable story in 1948, four years before her death. The copyright was renewed in 1976 and the first Scribner paperback came out in 1998. In 1914, author Val McDermid wrote about Tey in The Telegraph.

The novel portrays a girls' physical training school as seen through the eyes of author and psychologist, Miss Pym. High-strung emotions and goings-on at the school test the visiting lecturer to the limits of her emotional and moral endurance.

This highly original crime novel exposes the reader to a slow burning certainty that the crime is coming. When it takes place, late in the book, much doubt remains. Might it yet have been an accident? This hope is short-lived, though the reader, along with Miss Pym, rebels against the evident fact.

But by the time the killer confesses to Miss Pym, she has already astonished herself by deciding to shield the guilty young woman. The mark of quality in this kind of story is the unpredictable plot twist, and Tey does not disappoint. After Miss Pym confronts the killer with a piece of evidence only she possesses, one more stunning surprise awaits.

Like other Tey novels, this was a most satisfying read. The title refers to a saying no longer in common use. Man proposes but God disposes is a translation from the Latin.

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