- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Touchstone; Collier Books ed. edition (Feb. 15 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684842386
- ISBN-13: 978-0684842387
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #412,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Shilling for Candles Paperback – Feb 15 1998
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About the Author
Josephine Tey began writing full-time after the successful publication of her first novel, The Man in the Queue (1929), which introduced Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard. She died in 1952, leaving her entire estate to the National Trust.
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There are red herrings galore, a false arrest, 2 escapes, supernatural overtones, and then an unexpected, unprepared for, and totally implausible ending. That the guilty one would have and could have perpetrated the crime in the manner indicated is just beyond belief. The author even has to make her turn out to be insane to create a strong enough motive--no, not nearly strong enough actually.
If you want to read excellent Josephine Tey, try BRAT FARRAR or THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR. This one just isn't up to her later standards.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Many of her characters seem (on first viewing) to be stock or stereotypical characters. "A Freedy Lloyd part," is Robert Tisdall's quick summing up of the bluff, hunting', shooting' Chief Constable. But there's always some basis for stereotypes or they wouldn't exist and Tey's characters always turn out to have more to them than meets the eye.
The theme of this book is that of a stone dropped into the water. From the time that a young woman's body is pulled from the surf of a lonely beach in Kent, lives are affected. When it becomes known that the woman was the famous stage and screen actress Christine Clay, the ripple effect becomes international.
There's certainly no shortage of suspects. The likable young playboy who's been staying at her cottage is in the line-up. He's the "right sort" but tells a very fishy story. The songwriter who's reputed to have been her lover is lurking. Who knows what motives HE might have. The will mentions her next-of-kin, a brother to whom she has left only "a shilling for candles." Doesn't sound like a happy family, does it? And her husband (always a good bet for a wife's murder) is an aristocrat who dabbles in foreign politics and who has an iron-clad alibi. Or does he?
Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard must sort through it all and try to figure out if Christine Clay's sudden, violent death was really "written in the stars" as claimed by celebrity astrologer Lydia Keats. Since this is the second of the Inspector Grant series, we get to know some regulars - the stolid, but shrewd Sergeant Williams, elegant Marta Hallard who's Grant's unofficial consultant on the London entertainment scene, and reporter Jammy Hopkins who's less interested in getting the facts than in getting his reader's attention. The Chief Constable's strong-minded daughter becomes involved and plays a pivotal role in solving the mystery. Today a sixteen-year-old female is a young woman (if not a single mother!) but in rural England in 1936, a sheltered upper class teenaged girl is a "child" and both her father and Inspector Grant seem to think she'll be one for some time to come.
Tey's writing is lively and full of humor and the range and quirkiness of her characters is unmatched. Even six decades after her death, she has such a devoted following that new novels featuring her as a character are brisk sellers. Not bad!
I think a real triumph of this book is the way Tey explores celebrity and brings alive the character of the victim, Christine Clay, who is dead when we first meet her. There are no flashbacks or revealing letters hidden by the murder victim and then later discovered; Christine Clay is revealed (and, sometimes, hidden) through the reminisces of her theatrical colleagues, her husband, people she knew as a child, and--the only direct evidence we have from her--through her will and a codicil. Yet somehow, as the mystery draws to a close, I felt that I had gotten to know and like Christine, and that her death was a cruel and pointless thing.
The resolution of the mystery does rely on Grant's discovery of some last-minute clues that are indicated to, but not shared with, the reader. That irritates me a bit; part of the fun of a mystery is learning along with the detective, and seeing if you put the clues together to get to the same result. It feels like a bit of a cheat to have the detective learn something that isn't shared with the reader, but which is the key to revealing the murderer. Still, this is an enjoyable and satisfying read.
The novel opens with the murder of a superstar, an wildly successful actress and the wife of a wealthy man. Whodunit? Was it Herbert Gotobed, her estranged brother who attempted to thwart her happiness and development when they were children? Or could it have been her husband? Or what about Robin Tisdall, the young man who had been staying with her in a cottage for a few days?
Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard gets on the case right away, and soon there are plot twists, escapes, and possibilities too many to mention. Fortunately, the inspector has Erica Burgoyne, and interesting and smart young woman, to assist (uninvited) with the investigation. She’s quite an interesting character, as is Jammy Hopkins, the newspaper reporter. In fact, one of Tey’s strength is character development. Not only can the reader see and hear the characters, but she can pretty much guess what they might say or do next.
I won’t spoil the ending for you. I must say, however, that the inspector and his assistant went on some unnerving and unexpected side trips to locate Christine Clay’s murderer, and when they arrested him/her, it was a total surprise. If there was a clue, I missed it.