It’s time for another murderous Monday and I’ve got a wonderful British mystery for you that is simultaneously classic and mould-breaking. Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey was originally penned in 1946 and the writing was so delightfully engaging that I almost forgot I was reading a murder mystery. You’ll understand more of why that might be so a bit later in this review. So let’s jog on.
Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
A guest lecturer at a college for women, new author Miss Pym becomes involved in a question of cheating during final exams. Does her act of compassion precipitate a fatal accident – or murder?
Miss Pym Disposes follows the fortunes of young Lucy Pym, who has suddenly found celebrity after penning a bestselling book on psychology. After receiving an invitation from an old friend, now the headmistress of a physical training college for young ladies, to give a guest lecture to the students, Miss Pym finds herself drawn into the busy, energetic world of the seniors and staff. But of course things can’t unfold in such a jolly, English fashion – the possibility of a cheater amongst the ranks of the students sitting final exams is followed by a nasty accident that sours the final weeks of the college year . To top it off, Miss Pym stumbles across some information that could bring the futures of the college girls to ruin.
The Usual Suspects:
Once it becomes apparent that a possible murderer is on the loose, the pool of suspects is reasonably shallow. For most readers, I suspect that the killer will be a close run choice between two or three obvious characters with clear motivations….but then again, there might be a twist waiting in store!
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
As this is not your typical murder mystery, the hunt is short and reasonably transparent as both Miss Pym and the reader zero in on the only possible person/people that could be involved.
Four poison bottles for the health benefits of bracing, country air as panacea for gymnastic overexertions
Miss Pym Disposes is easily the most unusual murder mystery I have yet read. This is due, in great part, to the fact that the murder doesn’t actually take place until fully three quarters of the book has gone by. I know for a fact that it is fully three quarters, because my handy Kindle “percentage read” guide told me so. And when it does, it is not immediately apparent that a murder has occurred. And once this does become apparent, there are only a very small handful of people that could conceivably have the motive to commit the act.
So really, the murder bit did not turn out to be the best bit for me, although there is a cheeky little twist at the end that endeared me yet further to Miss Pym. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed Tey’s tone and the intricate character development that went on as Miss Pym (and in turn, the reader) came to know the girls and the staff better. Tey has a light touch replete with dry humour and the ability to create imagery that is sure to raise a smile. Even though I knew that this was a murder mystery, I didn’t really notice that no murdering had taken place because I was simply enjoying Lucy’s engagements with Dakers and Beau and Miss Lux and Fru Froken and of course, the Nut Tart.
This book would be the perfect book if you are in the mood for a bit of mystery, but would mostly just like a tightly told, highly amusing, deeply engaging holiday in the midst of an English boarding school (for big girls). Having satisfied myself that I thoroughly enjoyed Tey’s work in this one, I will now be seeking out her other mystery titles, particularly those in the Inspector Alan Grant series.
Until next time,