Ask any Tey fan and they will normally nominate 'The Franchise Affair' as her best book. 'The Franchise Affair' is Tey's most adapted work, the most famous being a 1951 film starring Dulcie Gray. Some may be surprised as there is no body, no murder, just the suspicion as to whom is telling the truth: The Sharpes who live at The Franchise or Betty Kane who accuses the Sharpes of keeping her as a domestic slave in their attic? How would Tey keep the suspense with no body?
Well, Tey does extremely well, slowly winding up the suspense as their solicitor, Robert Blair tries to disprove Kane's testimony. However, Tey makes sure that this case is not easily solved as the evidence mounts up against the Sharpes and Tey's plot cleverly ebbs and flows. Then you have the village locals who take the girl's side. This leads to residents vilifying the mother and daughter, some finding a good excuse to show their violent tendencies. This is a book about prejudice with Tey holding up a mirror to the huge social divide of class.
Tey brings the matter to a satisfactory closure, although, despite being an author who was not known for sentimentality, decided to go for a saccharine finale which did slightly jar with me. However, the case itself is resolved with Tey's usual flair and I can now understand why it is the favoured book out of the few crime novels she wrote.
This review is for the new Folio Society edition of this title. As always, it is an immaculate book peppered with illustrations by Mark Smith that perfectly embody the story and time, (the book was published in 1948). With a foreword by Lady Antonia Fraser, this is the perfect book for any Tey fan or lover of crime fiction to have on their bookshelf.