Book Review: To Love and be Wise by Josephine Tey

love and be wise #mysteryWhen a strikingly handsome young photographer mysteriously disappears, it’s up to Inspector Alan Grant to discover whether he accidentally drowned, committed suicide, or met his death at the hands of one of his many female admirers

Not an author I’ve come across before (it’s a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh – no, havent heard of her either) and it was passed on from a friend. As Tey, Mackintosh wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant during the 1920s and 1930s, which would place her with Allingham, Christie and Marsh, if only less prolific. This is book number 4 in the series and the first I read.

Since it’s already 2/3rds of the way through the series, Grant is relatively well established as a character. He has his favourite right hand (police) man to bounce ideas off – similar to Alleyn’s Brer Fox – but Williams is missing for most of the book on another case. Grant therefore comes to rely on the famous actress Marta, who he finds to be insightful and intelligent in her own way and a good foil (and a good cook!).

American photographer Leslie Searle, he of the unusual and stunning good looks, suddenly arrives in Town, quickly becomes part of the lives of an extended family, and just as suddenly disappears, leaving everyone bewildered and at a loss.  Grant, who has met Searle once, previously, is confronted with the disappearance of Searle whilst out on a camping research trip in Oxford. His companion, Walter Whitmore, is engaged to Liz, and there seems to be a rapid connection between Liz and Leslie that makes Walter jealous. Leslie’s disappearance makes Walter the Prime Suspect, but there’s one major problem: there’s no body and no real sign that Leslie simply hasn’t walked off into the night of his own accord. So has there really been a crime?

The ending is a novel take on a standard disappearance mystery, and I wont go further for spoilers. Most of the secondary characters are reasonably fleshed out for such a short book (sub 300 pages).

If I’m honest, this didnt grab me in the same way that my first Ngaio Marsh book did – another series that I started part way through the series. Allingham’s stories about Albert Campion run a quick second after Rodney Alleyn books. Whilst a decent, tight story, there’s nothing (on this book alone) to make Tey join the list. I have a few other books in the series that might (or might not) help.

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