To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey: B-

toloveandbewiseFrom the back cover:
The advent of Leslie Searle was not a particularly fortunate happening for the village of Salcott St Mary. The American photographer possessed an almost inhuman beauty, and his presence aroused a variety of violent emotions in the small community. Then, one spring night, he disappeared close to the river. A case of missing, presumed drowned, one would assume. When Detective Inspector Grant is sent to the village, he is not short of murder suspects. But a far greater puzzle confronts him: Leslie Searle has vanished like someone performing the Indian rope trick in an English meadow…

To Love and Be Wise takes place in an isolated village called Salcott St Mary, in which something of a celebrity enclave has sprung up. An American photographer, Leslie Searle, is introduced into this society and quickly ruffles some feathers by perpetrating a few snubs and getting on too well with a woman who’s already engaged to be married to a rather self-important BBC commentator. When Searle goes missing after a public argument with said BBC chap, Inspector Grant is called in to investigate.

After the genuine enjoyment offered by The Franchise Affair, the previous book in Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant series, this next installment comes as something of a disappointment. The biggest problem I have with it is that, in places, it can be very, very dull. It takes quite some time for the characters to become distinct and longer still for Searle to finally disappear. Eventually, it does grow somewhat more interesting, and though I had suspected something like the solution, I hadn’t expected it in quite the right way.

My favorite segments are actually those in which Grant consults with his actress friend, Marta, and values both her insights as well as her cool head in an emergency. It reminded me a little bit of Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane—not that the characters are at all similar, but it’s the same idea of the contented bachelor detective finally finding a woman who captivates him not with her beauty but with her wits. I hope we see Marta again!

All in all, I found the book to be a pleasant enough diversion. It’s certainly not going to show up on anyone’s Top 100 or even Top 500 list of the best mystery novels, but it’s far from the worst I’ve read.

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  1. You’ve had quite a run of B- books. We need to find you one that you enjoy more.

    • Ha, yeah. I noticed that, too. 🙂

      • Well, the books I recall enjoying the most in the past six or so months are Dancing on My Grave (a classic), Your Inner Fish, and Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body. Oh, and it’s been about six months since I read Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, which is math history told in grand epic style.

        All of these recs are non-fiction. Huh.

        • Ooh, Your Inner Fish sounds particularly interesting. I’m no good at science, so I like books where someone can explain things “with humor and clarity,” as Publisher’s Weekly puts it.

          Thanks for the recommendations!

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