Book Review: Miss Pym Disposes

22 Nov

In my efforts to complete the reading challenges I have set for myself (yes it is almost December), I chose Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes to satisfy two challenges.  Here are my thoughts:


Miss Lucy Pym, a popular English psychologist, is guest lecturer at a physical training college. The year’s term is nearly over, and Miss Pym — inquisitive and observant — detects a furtiveness in the behavior of one student during a final exam. She prevents the girl from cheating by destroying her crib notes. But Miss Pym’s cover-up of one crime precipitates another — a fatal “accident” that only her psychological theories can prove was really murder.



Josephine Tey is one of the best-known and best-loved of all crime writers. She began to write full-time after the successful publication of her first novel, The Man in the Queue (1929), which introduced Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard. In 1937 she returned to crime writing with A Shilling for Candles, but it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the majority of her crime novels were published. Josephine Tey died in 1952, leaving her entire estate to the National Trust.



My Impressions:

Miss Pym Disposes is a typically British mystery set at the Leys Physical Training Institute (PTI) in post WWII.  A PTI seems to be a college for women that prepares them for jobs in the fields of physical education, physical therapy and nursing.  The training is rigorous — the young women are run from gymnastic and dancing classes to anatomy classes to clinics from 5:30 in the morning until 8:00 at night.  Miss Lucy Pym comes to the school as a Friday evening guest lecturer because of her celebrity in writing The Book, a refutation of psychological theory.  Miss Pym was a French teacher who read a lot of psychology books and then wrote her own.  She is the darling of literary circles and finds the enthusiasm and youth of Leys to be a tonic and so stays on to enjoy the last days of the term when the Seniors are due to give their final Demonstration to family and friends prior to graduation.  But beneath the exuberance and excitement there is tension and malice.  The competition for a position at a prestigious girl’s school proves too much for both staff and students, and one of their number is murdered.

Miss Pym Disposes is witty and fun, yet dated.  The cultural references may be lost to the current generation and some of the aphorisms may be racially offensive.   I generally skipped over the references I didn’t understand and chalked up some of the language as pre-Civil Rights.  Neither really added to the mystery at hand.  All in all, it was a good way to spend a lazy weekend.  But if you really want to read a great mystery by Josephine Tey, I recommend Daughter of Time instead.

(I chose this book from my shelves.  The review is completely unsolicited.)

5 Responses to “Book Review: Miss Pym Disposes”

  1. Koala Bear Writer November 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    You didn’t mention what two challenges this book satisfies. 🙂 I’m finishing up two writing classes and looking forward to being able to read for fun again in a couple weeks. Spending a weekend reading sounds delightful.

    • rbclibrary November 23, 2011 at 8:06 am #

      This book went on reading from my shelves challenge and the 11 in 11 challenge – classic mystery. Good luck in your classes.

  2. hopeinbrazil November 26, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I keep hearing about this author, but have never given her a try. Thanks for piquing my interest further.

  3. susan (Reading World) November 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I have Daughter of Time on my bookshelf. Thanks for the reminder that it needs to be read!

    • rbclibrary November 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      I really liked Daughter of Time. I read it after I read Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman.

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