When a man is stabbed in a queue for the last night of a popular musical comedy, Inspector Grant has a whole host of problems. Who was the man? Who stabbed him? How did they they get away? And what is the link between the up-and-coming star and the murder weapon? His quest for the truth will take Grant from the bright lights of the West End to the Scottish moors and back again as he stalks the murderer.
The man in the queue was Josephine Tey's last novel, published in 1953, a year after her untimely death. As ever Tey writes beautifully and is eminently readable. As police procedurals go, it's a pretty good read tracing the course of the investigation from the discovery of the body to the identification of the victim to the tracking down of the chief suspect; but despite this The man in the queue is surprisingly lacklustre. Grant out-Morses Morse in jumping to wrong conclusions, and ultimately the mystery is solved because of the murderer's own honesty rather than by any work on the part of the police. I'm quite willing to believe that this happens in real life, but in the context of a novel, it makes for a disappointing read.
Although interesting it's not Tey at her best. It's curiously dated. Though written in the 1950s it harks back to a world trapped between the two world wars. An honest police procedural that fails to hold the reader. Enjoyable, but not a novel you would necessarily want to return to.
STOP PRESS: Since writing the review a friend has alerted me to the fact that Man in the queue was actually an early Tey (1929). I had been fooled by a bit of Pan paperback publicity. Placing the novel earlier in Tey's literary career does make sense, as it lacks the development of her later novels.