The Man in the Queue

The Man in the Queue - Josephine Tey It started quite slow, and with some remarks that could be perceived as somewhat racist in a modern context. I suspect this is more due to modern sensitivity than actual racism in this case however, and either way the opinions seem to be those of the character rather than the author.

The story ended up being quite entertaining for the most part, as the main character steps up through his deductions point by point and takes us along with him down blind alleys and almost constant mistakes. The ending however was quite disappointing, almost a deus ex machina though it was foreshadowed at the start of the book. It breaks the familiar English-mystery contract of allowing the readers to guess the murderer by withholding the primary evidence from not only us, but the detective as well, until the suspect decides to turn herself in. The story ends not in victory for the main character, and after all he has gone through to prove his case, it feels like a let-down.

There also appears to be a first-person narrator, though his entrances into the story are brief and few. This might well be a nod to Watson and Sherlock Holmes, who are referenced early in the story in an offhand way, however the depth of knowledge we get into the main character's head lend itself far better to third-person restricted, which is what the majority of the story is actually told in. This being the case, the narrated sections feel pointless and break the flow of the story somewhat.

It is interesting to note that this is the first in a series, the fifth of which was voted by the Crime Writers Association, in 1990, as the greatest crime book ever written. It will be interesting to see how far she comes in the intervening books.