Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Shilling for Candles

The second book by Josephine Tey in the Inspector Alan Grant series.

Early one morning a woman's body is found at the bottom of a cliff. Initially it is thought that the death of the woman was due to suicide but when the body is examined a button is found tangled in her hair. Inspector Grant is called to investigate the murderer as well as determine why the crime was committed. The main suspect is a young man who was living in the same house as the victim however a number of other possibilities also keep Inspector Grant occupied as he tries to unravel the mystery.

Like many other Josephine Tey novels part of the plot is linked to the theatrical world. This time the victim is an actress. Inspector Grant investigates all the possibilities methodically and is assisted, and at times possibly hindered, by Erica, the daughter of a local policemen. The author is interested in people and spends time making her main characters human, including showing weaknesses. Grant makes mistakes from time to time and worries about having made them, however one of his strengths is his ability to examine and observe suspects as complex people in order to eliminate them from the enquiry.

Josephine Tey is considered one of the important authors in what is termed the Golden Age of British crime fiction along with Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham.

The Man in the Queue

This book, Josephine Tey's first novel, was published in 1929. 

A man, waiting in a queue to see a musical, is killed and no one appears to have noticed the murder or the murderer. Inspector Alan Grant is called in to investigate this baffling case. Unlike some of the later books in the series, this book is definitely a police procedural following Inspector Grant and his team as they endeavour to establish why the man was murdered and by whom.

When the most likely suspect disappears Grant traces him to Scotland where we get to know more about the thoughts and behaviour of this investigator. However when the suspect is captured Grant begins to doubt that they have the right person and now has to prove the innocence of the suspect as well as establish the  identity of a killer. One of the interesting aspects of these novels is observing the techniques used by the police to aid their investigations and the time involved in obtaining information so they can continue investigating the case.

The book has been criticised as the crime is solved more by luck than by police investigation but no doubt this may also happen from time to time in real police investigations. As the investigation continues we get to know more about the victim and one of the themes of the book encourages us to question our views of what we consider to be right and wrong.

A detailed review of this title see the post by Margot Kinberg in the blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.