Monday, December 26, 2011

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

Protagonist: Insp. Alan Grant
Setting: Scotland Highlands, Hebrides Islands and London
Rating: 4.7

Insp. Alan Grant is on sick leave from Scotland Yard and on a train to the Scottish Highlands when a man is found dead. No concern of his -- he is on vacation -- so Grant goes on his way. But he has unwittingly picked up and taken the man’s newspaper with him. He finds a scrawled verse --"the singing sands, that guard the way to paradise" -- on a newspaper page, and those mysterious words draw him into the man’s death. Police claim he is a Frenchman who died accidentally, but Grant can’t help but believe that he is an Englishman -- because of the scratched verse -- and that his death may not have been accidental, even though he has no proof of such a thing.

This is a very introspective novel with Grant at the center, and with the mystery not even taking hold until halfway through the book. But I love Tey, and I especially loved this novel, with its slow unrevealing of the mystery. In a little over 200 pages, Grant moves from the Scottish Highlands to the Hebrides Islands to London, and we get a greater sense of who he is. Sadly, Tey died young, in her early 50s, and this is the last of her mysteries.