Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey: B

From the back cover:
Leys Physical Training College was famous for its excellent discipline and Miss Lucy Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to give a psychology lecture there. But she had to admit that the health and vibrant beauty of the students made her feel just a little inadequate. Then there was a nasty accident—and suddenly Miss Pym was forced to apply her agile intellect to the unpleasant fact that among all those impressively healthy bodies someone had a very sick mind…

Miss Lucy Pym, after receiving a legacy from a relative, has retired from her life of teaching and become somewhat of a lay expert on psychology. Having written a surprisingly successful book on the topic, she’s been regularly giving lectures. One of Lucy’s former schoolmates, now principal of Leys Physical Training College, invites Lucy to come and speak to her students. The first two-thirds of the book is Lucy getting to know the students and the staff, and sets up the “nasty accident” that is to come.

Like The Franchise Affair before it, Miss Pym Disposes begins quite charmingly but becomes rather improbable toward the end. The book is almost wholly populated by female characters, and to see a lot of girls bustling about, learning medical skills as well as honing their own physical prowess reminded me a bit of the Sue Barton series of books. Some mildly racist attitudes and comments mar this section, and Lucy’s waffling over what to do about a cheating student gets a bit annoying, but overall it’s pleasant fun.

After a certain point, the outcome becomes a bit predictable. The cheating student is undeservedly given a prime post at a distinguished girls’ school that everyone had assumed would go to another girl, and is eventually mortally injured by a bit of gymnastic equipment. I found it quite easy to peg the culprit, despite Tey’s attempts at subterfuge. The improbable elements begin with what Miss Pym, a “feeble waverer,” does with an important bit of evidence, and also the too-convenient testimony of a couple of nearby residents at the inquest.

Overall, I liked this less well than The Franchise Affair and found it to have some of the problems I noted in the first two Inspector Grant books (racism, convenient plot developments). It was, however, written earlier, so I remain optimistic. I’ve now read four of Tey’s eight mysteries, and still plan to complete the lot.

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