The Sunday Salon & Classics Circuit Review: A Shilling for Candles, by Josephine Tey

Welcome to The Sunday Salon, and The Golden Age of Detective Fiction blog tour.  The Golden Age of Detective Fiction refers to the 1920s and 1930s, when the genre flourished, producing many famous writers:  Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler … and today’s guest, the British author Josephine Tey.

Born Elizabeth Mackintosh in 1896, she grew up in Inverness and Birmingham, became a teacher, and turned to writing when she quit teaching to care for her father.  She wrote under two pseudonyms:  Josephine Tey and Gordon Daviot.  In several of Tey’s novels, the hero is a Scotland Yard inspector by the name of Alan Grant. Two of Tey’s novels have already been reviewed on this tour:

I read A Shilling for Candles, an Alan Grant mystery published in 1936.  I will confess up front that I don’t read a lot of mysteries.  Many of the popular, modern mystery writers seem formulaic after reading more than one of their books.  But when this tour was announced, I jumped on it as an opportunity to discover another new-to-me woman author.  So, let me tell you a bit more about the book …

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Early one morning, the body of actress Christine Clay is found on the beach.  While it initially appeared to be a drowning, after further investigation the local constabulary chose to call in Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard.  Grant initially suspected Robert Tisdall, a young man who shared a cottage with Miss Clay at the time of her death.  But as he learned more about Clay’s life and career, several potential suspects emerged.

What follows is a bit of a romp across southern England as Grant delves into the case and strives to learn more about each suspect.  If I were giving Grant a performance review, I’d tell him to dig a little deeper and not be taken in by red herrings, like the shady character with a criminal past.  Come on, anyone who has read at least one mystery knows that guy’s not the murderer!  But Grant pursued several obvious leads right into investigative cul-de-sacs, only to emerge and tear down another route.  When the murderer was finally identified, I could almost hear Grant smack his forehead in astonishment.  Though I hadn’t figured it out myself, I should have.  If Grant had only looked for the “slightly less obvious,” he would have cracked this case in no time.

What this novel lacked in suspense, it made up for in fun.  Grant is a sympathetic character, and Tey fills this story with a myriad of others who are endearing or comical.  This book was a great escape and a welcome break between more “serious” reads.

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

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8 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon & Classics Circuit Review: A Shilling for Candles, by Josephine Tey

  1. Have you read any of Nicole Upson’s detective stories in which Josephine Tey features as the main character? I’m not that fond of them myself, but I know I’m in a minority of one. Everyone else I know whop has read them has loved them.

  2. Despite my misgivings about The Franchise Affair, I did like The Daughter of Time a lot, so I wouldn’t say no to reading Tey again. This one sounds like a lot of fun and like a great place to go next.

  3. The only Tey I’ve read is Daughter of Time, and I liked it, but it’s quite unconventional (investigating history, rather than recent crime). If you’re at all interested in British history, though, it’s worth a look.

  4. I’m not much of a mystery reader myself, though when I was studying in London, I took a British mysteries class and really enjoyed it — more than I expected. This sounds like a fun one! Thanks for the review.

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