by Josephine Tey
Publication Date: January 1, 1946
Project: a century of women
Even Miss Pym—lecturer at an English women’s college—agreed that final exam week was a rather grisly time at school, with ordinarily pretty girls poring red-eyed over heavy tomes, and rising at 5:00 A.M. … but murder?
Miss Pym was a warm-hearted, blithe little lady who had read thirty-seven books on psychology, disagreed with them all, and written pages and pages of rebuttal. To her amazement, she became a “best-seller”.
Then Leys College, where she was a guest lecturer, became the scene of a peculiar and fatal “accident”, which Miss Pym suspected was a planned crime. Putting her psychological theories into practice, Miss Pym turned up some surprising conclusions…
When I started Miss Pym Disposes, I was thinking about The Cat Among the Pigeons. By the end, though, I was reminded of two entirely different Christie mysteries.
I’ve been really busy, so this slender book took me a much longer time to read than I expected. And not because it wasn’t good, because it was good. Quite good.
This is my fourth Tey – I’ve already read Brat Farrar, The Franchise Affair & The Singing Sands. What a sadness it is that she died so young. I’m directly in the middle of her oevre – I’ve read four and have four left to read.
Miss Pym is not my favorite of the bunch – that honor goes to Brat Farrar. But there hasn’t been a Tey that I disliked, although I was least impressed by The Singing Sands. I’m going to have to give that one another chance, though, now that I’ve warmed to Tey so much more.
I really liked this one. The setting at the school was delightful, and the characters of the Seniors were drawn with perspicacity laced with generosity. Like another bookish friend, I loved Nut Tart. Tey captured that moment in life when school is ending and youth is moving onto, and into, its future. The anticipation, the desperation, the uncertainty, the sense of standing on a precipice.
Did Miss Pym do the right thing? That’s a question that remains. I tend to think not, because her decision absolved a character who is dangerously unbalanced. Perhaps if Tey had lived longer, a sequel would have required Miss Pym to reckon with the consequences of her decision.
I’m reminded of Hickory Dickory Dock, or even Crooked House, a little bit here. Who takes responsibility for the next victim. And the victim after that? Because if there’s one thing that Agatha Christie teaches us, it’s that a murderer who has gotten away with it doesn’t stop at one – especially when the murder is cold-bloodedly motivated by gain. And both of those books addressed, in their own fashion, the arrogance of the individual who decides, on behalf of the community, how to handle a murder, and a murderer.
Anyway, great read!