Mmyoung's Reviews > The Man in the Queue

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
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's review
Dec 27, 10

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bookshelves: mystery
Read from December 22 to 27, 2010

Although an “interesting” first mystery novel -- and a very promising one -- this book has a number of flaws. It is unclear what “type” of mystery novel Tey (Elizabeth Mackintosh) was attempting to write. Was it a police procedural? An action adventure? A discourse on the realities of justice? Insightful examination of the moral and intellectual quandaries of a detective? All these different types of mystery novels seemed to have been wedged together into one and unfortunately, the seams do show. At different times in the book the writer functions as a disinterested observer of life, as the omniscient recorder of the thoughts of all the characters and as a disembodied “I” who knows and interacts with the detective.

Tey’s writing shows great promise and even with the technical difficulties mentioned above this is certainly a book that would be enjoyed by most fans of the British murders mysteries written in the 1920s.

Spoilers ahead.

The last few lines of the book ask the reader to consider the question of who has been the villain. The person we finally come to realize did the murder? Most people would argue no. The person who was murdered? One could make a good argument that that was the case. Or are we to think of the person whose actions motivated the behaviour of the murderer? It is perhaps only in retrospect and after years of public education that readers are likely to realize that the core story of this novel is that of a man who continues to feel ownership of a woman who has long since left him behind. One might even say that he becomes a stalker. Certainly at the time this was first published there would have been many who would have felt far more sympathy for the man whose disappointment in love leads him to suicide than for the woman who rejected him. Indeed the writer, and the major characters, do not seem to be excessively concerned that this man was willing to kill a woman rather than “lose" her.

When once one realizes that this is a story about a woman lashing out to protect another woman from a man who is willing to commit murder-suicide then the story changes from one of cozy murder into a frightening glimpse of how little things have really changed in the last 100 years.
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