Josephine Tey

The Franchise Affair (Musaicum Vintage Mysteries)

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Robert Blair, a local solicitor, is called on to defend two women, Marion Sharpe and her mother, who are accused of kidnapping and beating a fifteen-year-old Betty Kane. As the Sharpes are about to be interviewed by local police and Scotland Yard, represented by Inspector Alan Grant, Marion calls Blair and, although his firm does not do criminal cases, he agrees to come out to their home, “The Franchise”, to look out for their interests during the questioning. The case against them is quite strong. The Sharpe women are accused that one night they approached Betty while she was waiting for a bus and offered her a lift. Then they allegedly took her to the Franchise, demanded that she become a domestic worker, and, upon her refusal, imprisoned her in the attic. Betty alleges that they starved and beat her until she escaped. As interest in the case builds over a few weeks, locals engage in overt hostility against the Sharpes: public snubbing, then graffiti on their walls, then smashing of the windows; the vandalism culminates when the Franchise is destroyed by arson. Blair slowly uncovers clue after clue in order to find holes in Betty's story, also pointing out her character flaws. But no matter how good of a job Blair does, case against Marion and her mother is strong and public pressure threatens to culminate.
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