'Go away from here. Go away while the going is good. Go away. Away from here.'
I made the rookie mistake of reading the blurb on the back of the book before starting Josephine Tey's 1946 novel Miss Pym Disposes and annoyingly it gave away the crime! It didn't spoil my enjoyment though and I loved the setting - a girls PE college which teaches gymnastics, ballet and anatomy as well as taking in remedial patients. Just the spareness of the opening sentence shows what a good writer Tey is:
'A bell clanged. Brazen, insistent, maddening.'
The central premise - young woman writer visits alma mater and her success and stylishness proves to be a hit with the girls and the teachers - is not disimilar to Dorothy L Sayers' Gaudy Night although they differ in style and focus. In fact, the hectic timetable, teachers arguing in the staff room and a bit of cheating in an exam reminded me a lot of the Enid Blyton classic girl school stories Malory Towers and St Clare's.
Before whole-heartedly recommending Miss Pym Disposes though I will just say that those of us who read a lot of novels from the early part of the 20th C have to keep a sense of place and time and there are a couple of expressions in this book which are really not acceptable now.
I've also started another Tey novel The Singing Sands set in the bleak beauty of the Scottish Highlands. It has a great opening with a London Euston train sliding into a Scottish station. On board is Detective Alan Grant of Scotland Yard visiting an old friend in the 'great clean Highland country' on doctor's orders. Overworked and suffering from claustrophobia Grant is planning to fish the lochs and relax. On board, there is also a dead body, as is the way with detective novels and Alan Grant doesn't want to get involved. He's off duty, he's not well, he's going on holiday. But something about the dead man's young face and rumpled black hair gives me the impression that Grant is not going to have a relaxing holiday.