The Franchise Affair

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I just went back to Josephine Tey, one of the all time best mystery writers, for some guaranteed reading entertainment.  I chose The Franchise Affair, which I had never heard of, and  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was a good read of the kind I prefer, with well drawn characters and minimal gore.

I knew from the reviews that there was no murder and only a minor mystery, but that didn’t spoil the story.  The only problematic thing that strikes a modern reader is the same thing that stops today’s readers of Agatha Christie in their tracks and makes them think, ” Wow!  Was the English upper middle class really  that smug and insular?”

The short answer is that they were, and many probably still are, even if political correctness doesn’t allow them to admit it these days.  I don’t mean to single out the English for criticism, since no doubt there are many other societies that have similar attitudes, but it was interesting to note that the lawyers “know” that the mother and daughter who are accused of harming a young girl are innocent basically because of their social class (the mother’s brother actually sold a horse to the father of one of the lawyers), and the hero wouldn’t dream of handing over their problem to a more experienced lawyer who is also intelligent and decent, but whose style of dress shows that he is not “one of them”.  This in spite of the fact that a young lawyer in the hero’s office dresses even less acceptably.  But then, he’s a member of the family, so his social standing is secure.

The rigid social framework was interesting as a snapshot of a moment in time ( I think it was published in 1949), but created a slight problem by lessening the suspense.  The classy women are obviously innocent, so the only question is, will the lawyer be able to prove it in time?

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