Thursday, October 30, 2014

TO LOVE AND BE WISE by Josephine Tey








In Josephine Tey’s 1950 book To Love And Be Wise, Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant tries to decide whether what appears to be an accidental drowning actually is.

The first third of the book sets up the story. 

American photographer Leslie Searle shows up at a sophisticated party.

Author Lavinia Fitch invites Searle to Salcott St. Mary, a small town that has become an artists’ colony.

While there, Searle teams up with a minor national celebrity Walter Whitmore to write a book on the area. Whitmore will write the text and Searle will take the pictures.

Searle also seems to be in competition for Whitmore’s fiance.

Searle falls into the Rushmere River and drowns. And the story goes from there.

What happens is socially complex. The story ends with a surprise. 

To Love and Be Wise is what I would call a novel of manners, a mystery involving social and family intrigue.

The title comes from Sir Francis Bacon’s quote, “It is impossible to love and be wise.”

I was surprised that I liked the story. It made me think about the nature of clue-driven mysteries. (To Love and Be Wise is a combination police procedural and clue-driven, Agatha Christie-type story.)

At one point, this dialogue occurs-- 

“Have you ever seen a lady sawn in half, sir?”

“I have,” Bryce said, eyeing him with a wary disapproval.

“It seems to me that there is a strong aroma of sawn-lady about this case,” Grant said.

Are stories like To Love And Be Wise magic tricks? Or is there something more to them?

I found something more to Josephine Tey’s To Love and Be Wise.

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