Josephine Tey was born Elizabeth Mackintosh in Inverness, Scotland, where she attended the Royal Academy and studied the humanities. After she was graduated, she continued course work in physical culture at the Anstey Physical College and taught the subject for several years in English schools. She gave up teaching in 1926 to look after her invalid father at their family home. As Gordon Daviot, she wrote novels, short stories, and plays. Her greatest success in the theater came with the production of Richard of Bordeaux (pr. 1932), based on the life of Richard III and starring John Gielgud.
In private life, Tey seemed to have few interests besides horse racing and fishing, both of which figure in her fiction. In a letter to a fellow mystery writer, she confessed that she did not read many mysteries. She was a very shy woman with few close friends. She granted no press interviews. It was characteristic of her to have lived with her fatal illness for a year before her death without telling anyone about it. She never married. The strongest women in her fiction are single, and her detective, Alan Grant, is a bachelor who shares many of his creator’s interests, including a devotion to the theater.