Miss Pym Disposes

 There are SO many editions of this novel, but this is the one that I pinched (borrowed) from the Westgarth Aged Care library. I've read complaints online that the solution to the 'mystery' is too easy to predict, but I think this is missing the point of Miss Pym Disposes (1948), because it's really about character, and judgment, and justice, and guilt. The setting, in a physical training college, seemed bizarre, like something Tey had invented, but it turns out she actually trained as a PE teacher in a similar institution, so we must accept that the weird details (like bells waking everyone at 5.30am and the peculiar physical exercises they study) are accurate!

Miss Lucy Pym, author of an overnight psychology bestseller (boy, I'd love to read that), lands at the college at first as a guest speaker but finds herself staying on and getting to know the students and staff more intimately. The murder itself doesn't take place until deep into the novel, and while there is a twist at the very end, the meat of the story is Miss Pym wrestling with her unexpected position as arbiter of justice -- does she reveal the piece of evidence that she has discovered, and possibly ruin several lives, or hold her tongue and let justice go unserved?

Not surprisingly, Miss Pym Disposes is a distinctly old-fashioned novel, not just in its setting, though it was refreshing to read a book peopled almost entirely by female characters. The most old-fashioned element centres on Miss Pym's assessment of her new friends: character is immutable, a criminal is born bad, and your personality can be read in the features of your face! In fact, the book ends with Lucy planning a second book based on face-reading, though even she admits that it won't prove popular with the so-called experts. Hm, wonder why?

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