Josephine Tey: To Love and Be Wise

006_LVW

[Image: Illustration ©2019 Mark Smith from The Folio Society edition of To Love and Be Wise]

A new hardback edition of Josephine Tey’s 1950 crime classic To Love and Be Wise expands to five the number of her books published by The Folio Society. As in all of the series, the book is illustrated by on the cover, frontispiece and interior by Mark Smith.

The story begins with Inspector Alan Grant encountering Leslie Searle, a handsome American man, at a London party. Searle is in search of Walter Whitmore, a leading radio broadcaster, with whom he had a common friend. Searle turns out to be famed photographer of the California high society. Searle goes to visit Whitmore in his country home in the village of Salcott St Mary, where he will disappear. The recently arrived bohemian residents (including a playwright, bestselling author and ex-ballet dancer) feel at home with the glamorous arrival. While some are enchanted by the house guest, some are disconcerted by his presence. The author brilliantly describes the creeping worm of jealousy that starts to consume Whitmore as his fiancée Liz spends time alone with Searle. He feels slighted, inadequate, completely eclipsed by the brilliant newcomer. He slips into a despondency that fills his every idle thought. Whitmore and Searle decide to collaborate on a travel book and embark on a river journey by canoe – with Whitmore writing the text and Searle photographing the scenery. At that point Searle disappears, an event that implicates a number of people in the village.

The local police suspect death but cannot find a body. Inspector Grant and Detective Williams are sent to investigate Searle’s disappearance during the trip. Does, Whitmore, who the night of Searle’s disappearance had an argument with him before leaving for their campsite alone, have any vital clues or is he concealing something sinister? Can Liz explain some puzzling details? We follow the police as they to untangle the mystery of the man’s disappearance. With Grant’s local friend Marta Hallard, Grant sets out to discover the American’s fate.

The book is a quick read and a satisfying one. Tey’s dry and ironic style is apparent but never obtrusive. Her wit is light rather than cutting: a crowd as “asparagus-packed”; a character delivers a talk entitled “What Earthworms do for England”. The mystery is balanced by realism and one warms to the characters. Her story is laced with psychological subtlety and sensitivity to interpersonal relations. She presents characters evolving and reacting believably. It is easy to see why Tey is still admired by prominent crime writers today.

The book meets The Folio Society’s high production standards with a pictorial buckram cloth cover and a black paper-covered card slipcase. The paper stock is good quality and the illustrations are on different stock, one sided. This book would make an ideal gift for a fan of crime fiction.

004_LVW

[Image: Illustration ©2019 Mark Smith from The Folio Society edition of To Love and Be Wise]

Mark Smith’s illustrations feature silhouettes and simplified forms interspersed by telling details. Areas of flat colour with speckle, over layering of forms, limited palette range and absence of volumetric modelling all suggest characters and situations without making concessions to verisimilitude. He rightly decides not to make detailed depictions of central characters. The style of Smith’s illustrations is crisp, stylised, often taking a cinematically dramatic viewpoint. They are entirely in keeping with the period and are a perfect match for the tone, imagery and content of Tey’s novel. Let’s hope that there are more Tey books illustrated by Smith on the way. Buyers may well be tempted to expand their purchase to the rest of the set.

LVW_S_02

Josephine Tey, Mark Smith (illus.), To Love and Be Wise, The Folio Society, 2019, 248pp, frontispiece + 6 col. illus., cloth hardback in slipcase, £34.95. The Folio Society edition of Josephine Tey’s To Love and Be Wise, illustrated by Mark Smith, is available exclusively from www.FolioSociety.com

© 2019 Alexander Adams

To view my art and books visit www.alexanderadams.art