Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Books of 1936: A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey

A Shilling for Candles was the second mystery novel published by Josephine Tey, and the second book in the Inspector Grant series. I re-read this book for the Past Offences Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge for 1936 and I enjoyed it so much I want to re-read all of her mysteries.

In this novel, the dead body of a young woman is discovered on a beach, and is at first assumed to be a suicide or accidental drowning. It takes awhile to identify the victim. She had been vacationing at a cottage nearby under an assumed name, and the man staying with her claims to know her only by her first name. Eventually the police discover that she is the famous movie actress, Christine Clay. Inspector Grant shows up when evidence is uncovered that points to murder.

I like Josephine Tey's novels because they focus more on the characters, and less on the crime and the solution. Inspector Grant is not your usual police detective, although he is well known and has a good reputation for his work. He agonizes over decisions and how to approach the investigation. In this novel, Erica Burgoyne, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the Chief Constable, and Jammy Hopkins, a reporter, are key characters who give us another view of the world of England in the 1930's. Christine Clay's is also a very well-developed character, even though we don't  encounter her until she is dead. Through the accounts of acquaintances, family and friends, we see a full picture of her and the drawbacks of a life of fame and fortune but little privacy. I cannot leave out Robert Tisdall, the man who was living with Christine at the time of her death. Because of the unusual circumstances, he is immediately a suspect.

Another interesting aspect of this novel is the picture of the world of actors and the theater, which Tey had much experience with. This is a slow-paced but entertaining novel (if the mystery plot is not your major concern), and I am eager to re-read more of the books in the Grant series, to see how they compare. The remainder of the novels were written after World War II and it will be interesting to see how they reflect the differences of that period in England also.

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth Mackintosh. She was born in Scotland in 1896 and died in 1952.  She also wrote plays and non-mystery novels under the name Gordon Daviot. Nicola Upson has written a mystery series featuring Tey as the main character. There is an interesting page at Upson's website which talks about Tey's life.

This book was made into a movie, Young and Innocent, by Alfred Hitchcock, which was released in 1937. Based on book reviews I read, the adaptation is very loose but may be entertaining.

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Publisher:   Collier Books, 1988 (orig. pub. 1936)
Length:       226 pages
Format:       Paperback
Series:        Inspector Alan Grant, #2
Setting:       England
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:       I purchased this book.

32 comments:

  1. Not one I'll be seeking out, but I'm glad you enjoyed it Tracy.

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    1. Thanks,Col, I did enjoy reading this book. But I don't picture you liking it too much.

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  2. I like Inspector Grant too, Tracy. I like the humanity in his character, and the fact that he gets to the truth through some solid intuition and old-fashioned police work, too. Glad you enjoyed this one.

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    1. We have that in common, Margot. I remembered Inspector Grant as one of my favorite characters from past reading, and I was not disappointed.

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  3. Read this too Tracy and also enjoyed it. Think I've read 3 of hers now. Another good Scot writer!

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    1. Yes, Peggy, I was thrilled to realize I had completed another book for Read Scotland. I keep forgetting that she was Scottish.

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  4. Just finished the Pierre Lemaitre triology and am now officially hooked on crime ficton! It took me some time to ' come to the party'...but glad I did. I am looking for the next detective series. This one sounds great b/c of character development, setting ( theather, actors, ) and Insp. Grant. Slow paced should not be underestimated....sometimes that is just the right feeling for England...! Great review

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. I need to start on the Lemaitre trilogy. I bought Alex, then decided to wait until Irene came out. But I still have not purchased it.

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    2. Irene: is gaphic but the ending will have you on tenterhooks.
      Alex: watch out for rats!
      Camille: after this last caper....time to hang up the detective badge and move on.

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    3. Nancy, I just purchased Irene and will read it soonish. Looking forward to it.

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  5. I am not a massive Tey fan actually (I know, puts me in a minority) but have not read this oen but really want to know, especially as I did rather enjoy the Hitchcock movie, which is a minor work but a very entertaiuning one none the less. Thanks Tracy.

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    1. I would like to see the Hitchcock movie, Sergio. I am a Tey fan, I think I have read all the Inspector Grant books twice. Wish there was more time for re-reading.

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  6. Now you make me want to read this one again! I re-read all hers regularly, which is quite a compliment when there are so many other books around. I was interested to hear someone saying recently that she wouldn't have been considered one of the major crime writers in her own time, whereas now I (and some others) think she is right up there, one of the queens of crime. I'm going to try to find out about that film now....

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    1. Moira, it is so hard to fit in re-reads and find time for books I have not read. I want to cycle through these books again too.

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  7. Tracy, I do want to read a Josephine Tey novel and see if I like her Inspector Grant series. So far I have only been reading reviews.

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    1. I am sure you would like Tey's books, Prashant. She wrote some outstanding standalone mysteries too.

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  8. So glad we share an enjoyment of Tey's novels, Tracy. I think you would also enjoy "To Love and Be Wise," another very unusual novel featuring Grant. And there's a non-Grant book, "Miss Pym Disposes," which takes place at a Physical Education college for women. In both of these, Tey throws some stunning surprises at the reader. They're highly enjoyable - for the characters, the settings, and, yes, the plots.

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    1. I do look forward to reading more of Tey's novels, Les. I have read all of them, but most of them were so long ago the plots have faded from my mind.

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  9. I've wanted to read more Tey for years and years. I'm going to look this one up! It seems to fit with my reading theme this year, and I don't mean "The Year of Reading Badly!"
    Judith

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    1. Judith, I think you would enjoy this book. After reading this, I am more interested in trying the series by Upson that features Tey.

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  10. Plan to read this one. In fact, I bought the entire series. I like Josephine Tey and Inspector Grant. Of course, I started with her most famous novel, Daughter of Time.

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    1. I have forgotten a lot about Daughter of Time, Keishon, but it is not my favorite book by Tey. Franchise Affair and Brat Farrar are my favorites, but when I re-read all of them I may change my mind.

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    2. Those are my two favorites as well!

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    3. Well, thanks to you two, I know which Tey to read next.

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  11. I own this one, I just need to read it. You have given a little push in getting it done this year.

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  12. Another classic author I've yet to try.

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    1. Bernadette, she is definitely an author worth trying out. She led an interesting life too.

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  13. I love Tey--and I also read them so long ago that the plots have faded in my mind. If only I could just sit around all day and read--then I "might" have time to read all the TBR books and reread old favorites...

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    1. I know what you mean, Bev, just not enough time to read everything we want to read.

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  14. I just read this and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. I think I wasn't concentrating enough while I was reading it or I just got distracted by life halfway through so it was hard to get back into. In any case, I have heard enough good things about Tey from you and others that I'll try out something else by her (I have the complete set :)

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    1. Other than this book, I haven't reread Tey recently, Rebecca. But I think I have read most of them twice and loved them both times. And I think they are all a bit different, so that you can't judge one by the other. So hopefully you will like some of them.

      I found Inspector Grant different from what I remembered in this book, but I loved so many of the characters, that nothing else bothered me.

      When I don't enjoy a book, I am never sure if it is just my mood or the fact that I have to divide it up into many sittings. I rarely get to read a book in big chunks, and I don't think that helps the experience at all.

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