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The Franchise Affair (1948)

by Josephine Tey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Alan Grant Mysteries (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,736646,896 (3.88)268
Marion Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable that is, until the police turn up with a demure young woman on their doorstep. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window.But there's something about Betty Kane's story that doesn't quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. And it takes Robert Blair, local solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of The Franchise Affair...… (more)
  1. 20
    Elizabeth Is Missing, or, Truth Triumphant: An Eighteenth Century Mystery by Lillian De La Torre (bmlg)
    bmlg: one is a modern (20th c.) revisioning and the other a historical examination of the Canning Wonder
  2. 00
    We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Mystery/horror stories with a Gothic twist, about the particular horror that can come from an entire small town turning against you.
  3. 01
    The Privateer by Josephine Tey (wildbill)

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English (63)  Dutch (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
The Franchise Affair (1949) by Josephine Tey. Robert Blair is THE lawyer at Blair, Haywood and Bennet of Milford, England. The war is over and things have quieted down significantly. He leads a quiet life, in his early 40’s, lives with his aunt and does mainly wills and deeds and estate handling, nothing sinister or too taxing. That was his life until he took the call from Marion Sharp. If he had left his office a minute earlier on that Friday evening he would have missed it all.
As it was he took the call. Marion needed help of with a most dire urgency. Scotland Yard had just arrived with a young girl and an unbelievable tale. It seems the girl swears she was abducted by Miss Sharp and her mother, Mrs. Sharp, and the two transported her in the night to their country home, The Franchise. This is a rather dismal three story house set behind a tall brick wall and iron gates. There are no close neighbors. The story the girl tells is that she was taken from a bus stop under the guise of helping to get her to her destination after missing the bus. Instead they took her to their home where they imprisoned her, beat her, and tried to get her to become their maid.
They held her for most of a month before she escaped. She told the police all about it, gave a detailed description of the women and they house, and now the police are at The Franchise to further investigate her statement.
But neither of the Sharps have ever seen the girl. They swear there was no snatching of the girl, torture, or anything else. It was all made up.
Scotland Yard, in the person of Inspector Grant, knows it is the girl’s word against that of the mother and daughter, but they can’t let the case drop. And the Sharps have their honor and little else left to them. And so the need for a lawyer, for Robert Blair, the mild mannered, besuited civil lawyer who does not want to be involved but gives in the the request reluctantly. After meeting Marion Sharp in person that is. Now she is more than the somewhat gypsy looking tallish woman in the distance. She has now become something more inviting.
And he is thankful that he did. The women are provocative in their own manner. The girl is almost “too good to be believed.” And the situation is something that he slowly realizes he has needed in his life. That is, romance of a demure, stilted kind.
This is a romance wrapped around a darn good mystery. Just how did the girl know so much and the house and all the other details? And if she wasn’t being kept prisoner as she claims, where was this girl?
A slow start leads the reader into a devilish situation showing that hard work, friendship and prayers manage to solve the tricky puzzler. And this is a very fun read. ( )
  TomDonaghey | Jul 29, 2020 |
Extremely witty, well-plotted and well-paced mystery. although dated in spots. A young girl accuses two women living in a house called "The Franchise" of kidnapping her, forcing her to work for them and beating her. The women say they've never seen her before. Lawyer Robert Blair attempts to find out who is telling the truth and who is lying. There are many unexpected byways to the story. Although this novel is part of the Inspector Grant series, Grant is only a minor figure here.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 30, 2020 |
In sum: dated. At the same time, well-plotted and written. Two not well-off upper-middle class women, mother and daughter, living in an ugly isolated house they inherited are accused, out of the blue, of having held a young girl captive in their attic. The girl is very sweet and pretty on the surface and sympathy goes to her, plus she describes the house's inside with damning accuracy. One of the women asks the local lawyer, Robert Blair, who works mainly in estate not criminal law, to help them. To his surprise he is not only fully on their side, but enjoys the task immensely. I've read other Tey at other times, but this was the first one that set my back as so permeated with class and random prejudicesd and beefs that seem nonsensical to me to to the ignorance of bleeding heart liberals (in my view most extremes at either end exhibit this lack), that most women can't think analytically, or that people with a certain kind of blue eyes set wide apart can't be trusted, and a host of other oddities that grated. It did make me ponder aspects of the origins and audience of the detective genre -- upper middle class, well-educated, enjoying the leisure to untangle a mental puzzle, but also to enjoy having their own class and values affirmed in the process. Of course too, I'm one to talk, as generally, I gain indecent enjoyment of british cosy
mysteries. Some writers quietly poke fun at bias and themselves and everyone but I didn't feel that here. This went a few paces too far into social smuggery for me. ***1/2 ( )
  sibylline | Jan 25, 2020 |
A quote, when describing an article in a weekly review:
The Bishop of Larborough had long ago extended the Christian philosophy to include the belief that the underdog is always right. He was wildly popular with Balkan revolutionaries, British strike committees, and all the old lags in the local penal establishment. [p.40] ( )
  raizel | Dec 6, 2019 |
This was a pretty fun book. Robert Blair is a sleepy, small town lawyer, dealing mostly in wills and property issues. He's called by Marion Sharpe about a problem she and her mother are having. Against his will, he agrees to meet with them. Then he is drawn into their plight.

It seems that Marion Sharpe and her mother are women of modest means who inherited a large house known as The Franchise. The Franchise sits on the outskirts of town, behind a high brick wall with an opaque iron gate for access. A young woman, Betty Kane, claims that the two women kidnapped her, starved and beat her, and tried to force her to become their servant. This went on for about a month.

Well, it's true that Betty Kane disappeared for about a month, but Blair is convinced that the Sharpes are innocent. Just how to prove it? He has to find where Betty Kane had actually been hidden. So, he takes up a bit of the life of a detective, a bit of a Sexton Blake" (I'd never heard of Sexton Blake, but it appears that back in the day he was a fictional detective every bit as famous as Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance).

Anyway, this was a fun read, but a bit disturbing. "What was disturbing?" you might ask. Well, it seems that blue-eyed people are either oversexed or else plausible liars, likely given to murder too, depending, it seems on the shade of blue. Well, I have blue eyes, although I've no idea how to characterize their shade. I'd hate to think I was oversexed or murderous. But, who is to say?

For the terminally curious of you, here are the pertinent quotes:
"She is oversexed. ... I have never known anyone—man or woman—with that colour of eye who wasn't. That opaque dark blue, like a very faded navy—it's infallible" and "there's a particular shade of baby blue that condemns a man....before he has opened his mouth. Plausible liars every one of them....Given to murder too, come to think of it...."
( )
1 vote lgpiper | Nov 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tey, Josephineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allié, ManfredTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barnard, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boyd, CaroleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fraser, AntoniaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neuhaus, VolkerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was four o'clock of a spring evening; and Robert Blair was thinking of going home.
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Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane's claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison — the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks — which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane's story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant.


Very snug indeed was Robert Blair’s life as a bachelor solicitor in Milford, England. He wouldn’t have been a man, though, if he hadn’t noticed the two women who lived in the atrocious Regency mansion known as “The Franchise.” He thought the older woman very, very forbidding, and the younger — well, not quite so forbidding.

Now, it seemed, both mother and daughter were in trouble — accused of imprisoning a young girl for a whole month, beating and half starving her. The victim was Betty Kane, a girl in a modest school-girl dress, with candid slate-blue eyes, and an appealing look of innocence. Betty remembered what had happened perfectly, and told a heart-rending tale of terror and escape.

But if Betty had not been at The Franchise, where had she been for a whole month, and what was she doing? With every sentimentalist mourning over “poor Betty Kane,” and a blatant tabloid fanning the flames, the women were in danger from more hands than those of the law.


The Franchise Affair resembles some of the best work of Poe in its introduction of an apparently inhuman evil in an otherwise sedate country setting. Robert Blair, a lawyer who prides himself on his ability to avoid work of any significance, is interrupted one evening by a phone call from Marion Sharpe. Ms. Sharpe and her mother live in a run-down estate known as the Franchise, and their lives drew little attention until Betty Kane charged them with an unthinkable crime. Ms. Kane, having disappeared for a month, now says that she was held captive in the attic of the Franchise during her entire absence. While her story seems absurd, her recollection of minute details about the interior of the house sway even Scotland Yard.

Blair — who Ms. Sharpe has chosen for her defense because, as she says, he is "someone of my own sort"— must dust off his neurons and undertake some serious sleuthing if his client is to beat these serious charges. As with all fine mysteries, one has the sense of being in a sea of clues with a solution just out of reach. The Franchise Affair is a classic mystery, and also a superb record of country life in early twentieth century England.

Marian Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable, that is, until the police turn up on their doorstep with a demure young woman. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window. But there's something about Betty Kane's story that doesn't quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. It takes Robert Blair, solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of the Franchise Affair.
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