At times, a book can lead you to another book. When I read Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, I came to know that the book was influenced by Waters' reading of Josephine Tey's The Franchise Affair. Since I wanted some questions answered as regards The Little Stranger, I downloaded Tey's book.
About to close his office, the lawyer Robert Blair, receives a call from Marion Sharpe, a rather reclusive lady who resides with her mother in a house called The Franchise. Marion wants legal advice from Blair as a young girl by the name of Betty Kane is pressing criminal charges against Marion and her mother claiming that they had kidnapped and kept her in captivity. Intrigued by this, Blair takes up the case. Soon The Scotland Yard, represented by (Tey's recurring hero) Inspector Alan Grant, gets involved. They are all ready to dismiss the case when Betty drops a bomb-shell by accurately describing the room where she claims she was held captive.
Persuaded by his growing attraction for Marion, Blair has to use all his resources to get the Sharpes out of this mess. But, at times, he too is assailed by doubts about their innocence.
What intrigued me the most while reading the book was not so much the mystery as the depiction of the class divide in England. Betty is a working class girl (moving about, taking up odd-jobs etc) while the Sharpes are genteel upper-class ladies (rooted in their home and culture). Even in moments of adversity, they are stiff-upper lip and head held high etc...Marion rings up Blair because he is "one of us." Though he doesn't take up criminal cases, she refuses to go to the criminal lawyer, Blair suggests to her, because he doesn't seem like "one of us." One of Blair's friends whom he calls in for assistance is at once convinced about the innocence of the Sharpes because they were related to somebody (obviously upper class) whom he knew too. In fact, Blair feels ashamed at times that he doesn't have that kind of belief in his clients.
Uncomfortable reading at times (like Allingham's Police at the Funeral though the issue there is of race rather than class) but interesting because of the depiction of the Post-War churning of the classes and the author's own sympathies.
Entry for letter F in the Crime Fiction Meme.