Every once in awhile, I like to read a classic mystery, and I have only read a few by Josephine Tey. Tey’s novels acted as a bridge between the Golden Age of mysteries and the modern mystery, when the genre moved toward more realism.
The overworked Inspector Grant is on his way to a holiday in Scotland and is concerned because he has developed a debilitating claustrophobia. Upon leaving the train at Euston station, he comes across a porter trying to rouse an apparently inebriated passenger. Grant sees right away that the man is dead. When he examines the body, he drops some of his own papers, and while picking them up, accidentally removes the dead man’s newspaper.
Relaxing at his cousin’s house in the Highlands and preparing to go fishing, Grant checks the paper the next day to see what it says about the dead man. His face has stuck in Grant’s mind. He finds that the man has been identified as a Frenchman named Charles Martin. He has already discovered the man’s newspaper, with some verse scratched on it referring to animals that talk, streams that stand, stones that walk, and singing sand. He recognizes the man’s handwriting as the unformed style learned by British schoolboys, and he can’t imagine that the dead man was French. So, he decides to look into the death a bit more.
Except for The Daughter of Time, Tey’s most well-known book, I have only read a couple of Tey’s one-off novels, not her Inspector Grant mysteries. After reading this one, I think I’ll look for more. Inspector Grant is interesting and likable, as are the relatives he visits. The mystery is involving without being so overcomplicated as to be unlikely, as Golden Age mysteries often are. When Grant travels to the island of Claddagh (referred to as Cladda in the novel) in search of the singing sands, we also get to explore a new landscape.