This book was first published in 1948 but I first read it in the early 1970s when I was a teenager. I borrowed it from the English department library at school. It was seen as being a vintage classic even then but I think they probably had it because Josephine Tey is a Scottish writer.
However, it is set in an English provincial town where Robert Blair is a lawyer dealing with wills and property conveyancing. When he gets a phone call from Marion Sharpe who is in need of a lawyer, he tries to pass her on to Ben Carley, the local criminal lawyer, but Marion perseveres and he ends up going to visit her.
Marion and her elderly mother have recently inherited a large, dilapidated house and the police have informed them of a complaint which has been made against them by a 15 year old girl, Betty Kane.
According to Betty Kane, the Sharpes had abducted her and kept her locked up, beating and witholding food from her until she agreed to do the housework for them. She says she was held prisoner for a month until a door was left unlocked and she was able to make her escape.
The police decide that there isn’t enough evidence to charge Marion and her mother, but the Ack Emma – a tabloid newspaper gets a hold of the story and the dregs of society decide that they are judge and jury, making life miserable for the Sharpes.
When the police decide to charge the Sharpes, Robert Blair despairs of being able to help them but he turns to sleuthing and with the help of others the full story begins to unfold.
I really enjoyed re-reading this book but I have a vague memory that I didn’t much like it the first time that I read it. Before then I had only read Agatha Christie mysteries and Tey is very different from her. In fact I think she is much better than Christie but I’ll have to read more of her books to be sure.
If you like vintage crime, this is one that you should definitely read.