Sunday, September 29, 2013

Miss Pym disposes

When I began working in public libraries in the 1960s one of the popular authors was Josephine Tey. I did not read any of her works at the time but have had the opportunity to do so this year. Josephine Tey is well known for her detective fiction featuring Inspector Grant but she also wrote stand alone fiction - one tile being Miss Pym disposes published in 1946.

Miss Lucy Pym, a former school teacher who has written a popular book on psychology, is invited to be a guest lecturer at Leys Physical Training College run by a former school friend. After presenting the lecture she intends returning straight to London but is persuaded by the senior students and staff to stay, initially for a few days which extends to a two week holiday. Much of the book is Miss Pym's assessment of the character and personalities of students and staff that she meets as well as observations on the activities at the college as the girls prepare for their final examinations and end of year performance. Josephine Tey (Elizabeth Mackintosh - her real name) once trained at such a college which explains the detail in which the activities are described.

This is a slow moving book as the first 150 pages create the atmosphere of life at the college and allowus get to know its participants. The mystery occurs in the final quarter of the book. Initially there is evidence of cheating during one of the final exams but this is overshadowed when one of the girls has a serious accident when practising in the gym and suspicions arise that it was not an accident. The tension builds in this section with the inevitable twist at the end. The book poses dilemmas faced with the need to make correct decisions that may or may not create subsequent consequences and or impact on other people.

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