Elizabeth MacKintosh, a writer, had a major impact on my life. She is also known as authors Gordon Daviot and Josephine Tey. Unfortunately, she died in 1952 at the peak of her career.
I first “met” her through a tour of the Tower of London in August 1962 just before entering my junior year of college. The “Beefeater” guide pointed to a part of the facility and said, “This is where Richard III allegedly murdered his nephews.”
History major that I was, I responded, “What do you mean ‘allegedly’?”
He said, “Read Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.” Which I did. Immediately.
Why did this exchange have an impact on my life? After reading the book, I became enthralled with British History in general and the Middle Ages in particular. A lot of my reading has been in that field for the last six decades or so.
Flash forward to December 2018, when I read and loved Tey’s first Alan Grant mystery, The Man in the Queue (published in 1929), that I read and reviewed at that time. While searching for a “read” during the summer of 2020, I came across Grant book 2, A Shilling for Candles. This was first published in 1937.
A man discovers a body in the surf in the county of Kent near Westover. It turns out the body in question was that a famous young actress/singer/dancer named Christine Clay. Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is called in by Chief Constable Burgoyne to investigate and solve the murder. The only tangible clue to the killer is a coat button entangled in the victim’s hair. There are numerous suspects.
Robert Stannaway (AKA Robin Tissdale) was a houseguest of Miss Clay in Kent. He shows up on the beach after the body was discovered and claims he had stolen and returned Clay’s car and did not know her last name. Turns out, he was a major beneficiary in Clay’s will. Also in the will is Herbert, Christine’s ne’er do well brother who is left a shilling for candles.
Clay’s husband Lord Edward Champneis is a suspect because he lied to Grant where he was when Clay was murdered. He was an adventurer of sorts. Jason Harmer was a close friend of Christine and wrote some songs for her. He gave a very unsatisfactory account of where he was when Clay was murdered. Judy Sellers was a “friend” of the victim but also a rival for film roles.
Among the “good guys” are Lydia Keats who was a friend and an astrologer/clairvoyant to the stars. Keats was a friend of Marta Hallard another stage actress, with whom Grant has a relationship. She appears in other Grant stories. Erica Burgoyne is the daughter of the Chief Constable who befriends one of the suspects.
After several false roads are followed, Grant gets his killer.
Josephine Tey as a writer is beyond comparison. The British Crime Writers voted her number one among her peers. Reading her books is lyrical. My only regret is that I have now read one-half of her collection of Grant mysteries. My joy is that there are three more to read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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–Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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