Miss Lucy Pym, a popular English psychologist, is guest lecturer at a physical training college. The year's term is nearly over, and Miss Pym -- inquisitive and observant -- detects a furtiveness in the behavior of one student during a final exam. She prevents the girl from cheating by destroying her crib notes. But Miss Pym's cover-up of one crime precipitates another -- a fatal "accident" that only her psychological theories can prove was really murder.
I’ve read so many 1940s murder mysteries by now that I’ve become used to their usual plot beats. They tend to go something like this: detective shows up to place (probably a country house), somebody dies, detective interviews a lot of people, including at least one red herring, detective finds important clue, detective confronts murderer, murderer is either arrested or commits suicide to avoid scandal. Detective goes home.
And that’s not really what happens in Miss Pym Disposes at all. Yes, there’s a murder, and yes, clues are found, but it’s not really a murder mystery.
It’s more like a psychological investigation into the various mindsets of college students, one of which just so happens to be a murderer. It spends more time thinking about colleges and teachers and clean living than it does about the act of killing someone. The murder itself doesn’t take place until nearly the very end of the book– something that drove me batty until it actually happened, and when it DID it was so sudden and pathetic that I was shocked at how guilty I felt for wishing for somebody to just die already.
Sometimes I get so caught up in what I expect to happen in a book that, when it doesn’t go the way I’d planned, I get annoyed. Which is fine! But what I like about Josephine Tey is that she took my annoyance and turned it into pity.
I felt so bad for the victim, and for the murderer, and for the whole situation. I became very emotionally invested in Miss Pym Disposes, with all of its characters. Usually with a murder mystery I only end up caring about the detective, so being forced into a relationship with the entire cast is something new and exciting. And emotionally devastating, when it comes with an ending like the one here.
Miss Pym Disposes is a very good book and I definitely recommend it. Especially if you like books set in boarding schools! Just remember that it’s an unusual sort of mystery, and be patient. The payoff is worth it.
Read: December 19-20, 2014