Josephine Tey’s ‘A Shilling For Candles’

When the dead body of a famous actress is discovered on the beach early one morning, circumstances point to foul play, and Inspector Alan Grant is called in to solve the mystery of her demise. A Shilling For Candles is the third novel I’ve read by Josephine Tey. While The Singing Sands was a murder investigation infused with isolation and introspection, and  The Daughter of Time saw an incapacitated Inspector Grant casting his steely forensic eye over  historical anomalies from his hospital bed, in A Shilling For Candles, Tey delivers a fast-paced thriller of a mystery brimming with a wonderful mix of eccentric characters, possible suspects and motives, and no end of blind alleys to explore.

Once again, I was struck by how well drawn Tey’s supporting cast were. Her capacity to create a well-spun, tightly-structured twisting mystery, should be in no doubt, but she delivers so much more than this. I was so enchanted by spirited Erica Burgoyne, the Chief Constable’s daughter, who conducts her own investigation in secret in order to help clear the name of the man who is initially wrongly framed for the murder. Also, her writing is dynamic and reflective in turns, leading to a novel which is both thrilling and richly satisfying. I was stunned by the ingenious ending, and much as I love to second guess a murder mystery plot, I was out-smarted this time round, and loved every minute of it.

I’ve become such a fan of Josephine Tey’s crime fiction that I’ve already got my next one lined up – The Franchise Affair.  My only concern now is that if I carry on at this rate I’ll soon run out. Clearly, rationing will have to be introduced.

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