A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey. About the novel In this novel, Tey's second, Inspector Alan Grant investigates the murder of a famous actress, whose death by drowning had been predicted by a celebrity clairvoyant. In her characteristically elegant prose, Tey not only delivers an interesting piece of Golden Age crime fiction, she also ...
A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey. About the novel In this novel, Tey's second, Inspector Alan Grant investigates the murder of a famous actress, whose death by drowning had been predicted by a celebrity clairvoyant. In her characteristically elegant prose, Tey not only delivers an interesting piece of Golden Age crime fiction, she also explores the concept of celebrity. Tey's observations on this particular issue still seem fresh today is both a testament to the strength of the writing and to the fact that some things never change. Alan Grant is a thoughtful and engaging detective, who makes mistakes and sometimes misjudges people and situations in a very realistic way. Secondary Characters: The secondary characters are also interesting and well-drawn, particularly the wonderful Erica Burgoyne. The mystery at the center of the novel is engaging enough, with multiple red herrings and a satisfactory resolution. However, the novel does contain multiple instances of the casual anti-semitism which is a recurrent feature of pre-WWII British crime fiction. It's practically another excellent example of "Not your ordinary mystery novel." A body is discovered on a beach, and the immediate assumption of suicide is soon contradicted by the evidence. (I have to say I'm a little impressed that the article found with the body which indicates murder is never mentioned in anything I've read about the book on the internet, and in fact morphed into something else for the film adaptation (1937's Young and Innocent, said to be Hitchcock's personal favorite among his British films); I'm glad to continue to keep the secret.) The most obvious suspect isn't after all so obvious - and turns up missing - and what for about a minute seemed neat and tidy turns out to be a tangled ball of false confessions, astrology, suspects requiring delicate handling, and wardrobe searches. About Josephine Tey Josephine Tey was born in July 1896, and died in February 1952. She was born in Inverness, Scotland, the United Kingdom. Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. Josephine was her mother's first name and Tey the surname of an English Grandmother. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant. The first of these, 'The Man in the Queue' (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot, whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, "Kit An Unvarnished History." She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled 'Claverhouse' (1937).
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I love Josephine Tey and wish she had lived longer. This book pleases on many levels but especially in her characterisation. It IS old-fashioned, but none the worse for that. And as an insight into the ways things were done in genteel society in the early-mid twentieth century it fits the bill admirably.
Inspector Grant always 'gets his man', but the idiosyncratic way in which he does so is always interesting.
May 24, 2013
I recently reread my collection of Josephine Tey and my copy of A Shilling for Candles fell apart, so I needed to replace it. Her books are classics.
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