Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

I previously had linked to Morten Lauridsin's choral work O Magnum Mysterium.  Here is another soul-subduing piece written for James Agee's poem, "Sure on this Shining Night."

The Singing Sands (Inspector Alan Grant, #6)The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I read a book by Josephine Tey I think, "This is my favorite mystery by Tey!" Well, this one so far is my favorite.

Inspector Alan Grant is on leave due to burn out and an unexpected development of claustrophobia due to work stress. He is traveling by train to Scotland where he plans to relax with a cousin's family and fish. In his compartment on the train he fights a burning desire to open the door to escape an ever growing feeling of strangulation.

Finally, he comes to his stop and walks down the train aisle to leave. He passes another compartment to see the porter shaking a man to rouse him and tell him he needs to leave.

Grant enters the compartment straightens the man up and asks the porter, "Don't you recognize a dead man when you see one?" Then he leaves the sputtering porter to call the police (he's on vacation!) and goes to a restaurant in town for lunch. He opens the paper he carried out with him from the train to find a strange poem.

"The beasts that talk
The streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand,

That guard the way
To Paradise..."

Grant realizes this is the paper that the dead man had under his arm. Without thinking he had picked it up while taking the dead man out of the clutches of the porter.

What was supposed to be a vacation turns out to be a quest to solve a mystery.

As usual, Tey's stories are interesting for their psychological portrait of the different characters and all of us Tey fans enjoy Inspector Grant. Not that he shows up in predictable ways in her stories. None of Tey's stories follow a formula which keep the reader guessing as to the outcome.

Unlike Agatha Christie, whose characters I find often flat and unsympathetic (sorry Christie fans), Tey draws characters that are overall nice, normal people. Not perfect but not un-dimensionally ugly. I like Tey's people. With the exception of Hercule Pierrot, I find it hard to care about any of Christie's.

Not to say that the reason Tey is good is because Christie is bad, but I guess we find it hard not to create a point of reference. Tey's stories would be wonderful even if Miss Marple, Hercule Pierrot or Mr. and Mrs.Beresford never existed.

I just find reading Tey to be a light-hearted and even touching experience. Her characters are living and breathing and have blood in their veins, not ice.

And she flat out writes a darn good mystery.

View all my reviews


  1. I was just looking at this book and wishing I had the time to read it. I'm glad to hear that I have something to look forward to. Love the photos of your guineas!

    1. Hi Cleopatra. Thanks! You will enjoy this book. I recommend anything by Tey.

  2. I love your reviews of these classic mystery books Sharon. I have actually read very few of them but I must jump in and try some of them. My wife is actually a fan of these sorts of books. I will point her in the direction of Tey. Your description of Tey's characters make this series sound very good.

    1. Hi Brian. I like reading these books as a bit of a break from my more "serious" reading. I usually read them on the weekends because they don't take long to read and I like to relax then. Have a great weekend!

  3. i've read this a couple of times and greatly enjoyed it... Tey is a wonderful example of how an author's personality is reflected in their work, imo... she was a quiet, retiring sort with an interest in the drama(she had several plays produced) and spent a large part of her life in rural Scotland... her mysteries are sterling examples of the detective art, especially, "The Daughter of Time"... great post, tx...

    1. Hi Mudpuddle. I am saving the Daughter of Time for last. It's considered one of the best mystery novels of all time. I am also saving her biography for when I've read all her books. Sadly, I think I am reaching toward the end.

    2. one of the excellent things about books is: you can read them again!! haha

    3. Very true but with mysteries I need to wait until I forget the ending. :)


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.