Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison -- the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks -- which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.
I read this book to fill the Country House Mystery square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card.
This was my first Josephine Tey, but it will certainly not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty little mystery. Although it is nominally part of the Alan Grant series, Grant appears in the novel as a secondary character. His thunder is stolen by a bachelor lawyer, Robert Blair.
I thought Tey did a masterful job of describing Blair—a man of a certain age who has never married, never left his small town, and never left the care of his aunt with whom he shares a home. When he receives a plaintive phone call from Marion Sharpe, asking him to come to her country home, The Franchise, he initially wishes that he’d left the office five minutes earlier and had missed the call. He is shaken out of his overly comfortable routine—into a portion of the law that he is less familiar with and dealing with people and events that he is not familiar with.
It is marvelous to watch Blair rise to the occasion, to become more aware of his community, his surroundings, and himself. His kindness to Marion & her mother was above & beyond the call of duty and I ended up liking him very much.
The twists & turns were well written, the motivations of those involved revealed, and the mystery eventually solved. Now I just want to know how Blair’s visit to Saskatchewan to his sister turned out!