I do love Josephine Tey’s books, I read them all in one go a while ago (and not in the correct order, sigh!), which makes me think I must re-read them all again. This is apparently the first Inspector Grant book. I do really like Inspector Grant, he seems quite different to other detectives in books, being a big thinker and mulling things over rather than racing about, and being open-minded and having self-doubts, he seems quite a gentle and empathetic man.
I do love Josephine Tey’s books, I read them all in one go a while ago (but not in the correct order, sigh!), which makes me think I must re-read them all again. This is apparently the first Inspector Grant book. I do really like Inspector Grant, he seems quite different to other detectives in books, being a big thinker and mulling things over rather than racing about, and being open-minded and having self-doubts, he seems quite a gentle and empathetic man.
The story is really appealing, as a man is killed with a knife while standing in a queue outside a theatre starring Ray Macarble, no-one sees the murder happen and the victim is naturally propped up by the tight queue of people and his death is only discovered when the theatre doors open and the crowd surges forward and the man then falls down. He has no identification on him, and no-one has seen the murderer either, so there is very little for Grant (and myself!) to go on.
Grant’s character is just forming in this book, and it is good to learn a little more about his interests, such as handwriting. I feel we learn more about him in the later book The Singing Sands though, and I think I prefer the books where there is more information about him. I like his methodical method, and he tries to put himself into the mindset of the criminal.
There are lots of descriptions of London in this book too, more than in her other books, so I also found that interesting. And I found it fascinating when Grant goes to Scotland and how that changes things, with the scenery there being so different from London for both him and Lamont, and how they both have to adapt to that.
I am intrigued with the word ‘I’ appearing lots in the book, this feels like Tey is sharing with us her view of Grant, it’s an unusual technique, and particularly at the end of the book when Tey apparently comments to Grant on the mystery, “I said to him…”, I don’t know if this makes it feel more real, like a biography or like she’s Watson recording Holmes’ successes, I can’t quite decide what it means and why she does it, but it’s very interesting.
After Grant catches Lamont, the man he suspects of killing Sorrell, and Lamont tells his side of things, I begin to believe him, much as Grant seems to, and to doubt his guilt where I was so convinced of it before, as was Grant. I think us being allowed to see Grant’s thoughts and doubts is also an interesting technique, it makes me feel closer to Grant, and I like that he’s not a know-it-all detective superior to the reader with a magical sense of knowing the identity of the guilty person, he’s just a regular person who does the best with the facts he’s got and is willing to accept he’s wrong. And I also like that he treats Lamont like a person, not just a criminal, he shows him respect, even not wanting to arrest him at the house with other people there but walking along with him, treating him like a gentleman, and also behaving himself like a gentleman, and he listens to him and is willing to learn, he doesn’t just have a closed mind towards him and the situation.
Ooooh, but then there’s the shocker that it wasn’t actually Lamont who committed the murder, it was actually Mrs Wallis, the woman ahead of Sorrell in the queue, because she is Ray Macarble’s estranged mother and she sensed that Sorrell was planning to kill Ray out of jealous obsessive love because Ray had rejected him, and then kill himself. Such a great twist, and good that it takes Grant as much by surprise as the reader, again I love the fact that there is no superiority of Grant over the reader, or clues that are teasingly placed to mislead the reader that Grant understands. But I have to admit that does make it feel a little unfair, as there is no way to guess the solution (or at least I felt there was no way I could have guessed it), as the only possible clue was a faint hint that Ray recognised the description of the dagger but then Ray and Mrs Wallis are never mentioned again, and some of the coincidences are a little mean, I feel, and possibly a bit of a stretch, such as that Lamont had an injury on his hand in exactly the same place as the murderer did, and that Mrs Radcliffe who had booked a ticket on the same ship as Sorrell had the same initials as were on the hat brooch Sorrell had made for Ray. But I loved the book, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and I loved her writing and her unusual detective. It’s a real standout book for me and I feel I want to immediately re-read it again now I know the solution. And I will aim to re-read all of the Inspector Grant books in the right order now, so A Shilling For Candles is next to read.