The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey
The Singing Sands

I really liked this book for how much we learn about Inspector Grant, who is possibly one of my favourite detectives. It’s an unusual detective book as it’s not fast-paced, with Grant doing more thinking while he’s fishing or walking, rather than actually detecting or following clues. But it’s great to read, and Tey’s writing is on top form as ever.

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey available on Amazon
 Kindle  Hardback
 Paperback  Audiobook

I really liked this book for how much we learn about Inspector Grant, who is possibly one of my favourite detectives. It’s an unusual detective book as it’s not fast-paced, with Grant doing more thinking while he’s fishing or walking, rather than actually detecting or following clues. But it’s great to read, and Tey’s writing is on top form as ever.

At the start of this book, Grant is recovering slowly from an attack of nerves and claustrophobia and is heading to Scotland by train on sick leave. I like that Tey has this as Grant’s issue, rather than the more usual issues for detectives such as depression or anger, I feel these depression and anger issues still maintain the detective’s superiority over their colleagues and the reader, but Grant’s issue displays a vulnerability, and a possible weakness viewed by colleagues and also himself, rather than superiority. I like Grant even more for this issue, and how human and fallible it makes him. He is struggling to overcome his setback and come to terms with his illness and how this affects his view of himself, and also trying to get back the desire to detect.

This is an unusual story, and a little odd, particularly the ending. It doesn’t even seem like a murder or mystery story at the start. Charles Martin is found dead on a train but has earlier scribbled a verse onto a newspaper, which Grant accidentally picks up and becomes fixated with. The niggling feeling he has about this case does allow things to develop slowly, and it is a slower paced book, not action-packed like other detective books, and I think it’s brave of Tey not to keep to the usual detective formula, I can imagine others might perhaps describe this book as too slow but I think it feels thorough and informative and like Tey is interested in this subject herself, which reminds me of another of my favourite writers, Dorothy L Sayers, as she frequently seems to have an interest in the subjects she introduces into her detective novels and writes about at length, such as bell-ringing in The Nine Tailors. This definitely isn’t like the usual run-of-the-mill detective book, but then Tey doesn’t do run-of-the-mill books so why should her detective books follow the usual formula, it’s more interesting when it’s different and usual and in-depth with lots of background and it makes you think.

It turns out that Charles is actually Bill Kenrick, and the puzzle is why he was going to Scotland instead of meeting his friend in Paris, and why he had incorrect identification papers on him, and of course what the scribbled verse means. But the police aren’t suspicious at all, it is just Grant with a niggle about all this. And it actually ends up being about a lost city in Arabia, which is fascinating but all rather convoluted. Bill had told the explorer that he thought he’d found the lost city, but the explorer refused to go with Bill to help him visit this lost city and instead decided to kill Bill in order to stop him telling anyone else about it, however before Bill was killed he had told another explorer about the lost city and this explorer went and discovered the city and got the glory. So the first explorer killed Bill but didn’t get the glory from the information that Bill had given him and didn’t manage to stop the other explorer from claiming the glory for it, but he admitted the murder in a letter to Grant, which was fortuitous as otherwise there would have been no proof at all, and then killed himself! It is a little strange, and the ending itself just seems to tail off abruptly. But it is a great read, I so love her writing and love the unusualness of her ideas, and the book also feels really far more about Grant and his struggles to accept and potentially overcome his illness, rather than a murder mystery story. It is a fascinating book and one I immediately want to re-read, as I suspect even more of the subtle delicacy and skill of the book will be revealed each time I read it. I also love Grant’s love of the Scottish Highlands, and the descriptions of these with their vastness and remoteness and strength are beautiful to read. I have read all of this author’s books now and really enjoyed all of them, but I think my favourites are The Franchise Affair and Miss Pym Disposes.

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey available on Amazon
 Kindle  Hardback
 Paperback  Audiobook

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