Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The singing sands

After recently spending a week in Leicester where some of the time was spent exploring sites relating to Richard III I am currently rereading Daughter of Time, the book which originally got me interested in Richard III. However on the return flight to Australia from a visit to Hawaii I read another Josephine Tey novel, The Singing Sands.

Alan Grant is taking enforced leave from the police force due to his suffering from claustrophobia as part of a nervous breakdown. He travels by train to spend time with his cousin and her family in Scotland but as he leaves the train a body is discovered by the porter. Grant tells the porter to call the police and as he leaves he accidently picks up a newspaper owned by the dead man. Looking at the paper some time later he discovers part of a poem written in pencil, probably by the man in compartment B7. The poem refers to 'the beasts that stalk, the streams that stand, the stones that walk, the singing sand ...that guard the way to Paradise'.

Grant spends the next few weeks recuperating, enjoying Scotland and spending much of his time fishing, often with his cousin's young son. However he cannot forget the young man in the carriage and starts to investigate the death from afar. His investigations take him to the islands, the location of singing sands, and it is during his time there that his health greatly improves. An advertisement in the paper for information about the lines of poetry he discovered brings him in contact with a friend of the dead man and they continue the investigation together.

This was Josephine Tey's last novel and it was published in 1952 after her death. As usual the mystery is secondary to her study of people and places and the examination of why people act the way they do. However the the threads of the mystery and its investigation are gradually revealed and resolved.

The availability of Josephine Tey's books in public libraries may be limited to a couple of titles though some provide access to e-books for some of her works. However the University of Adelaide has made digitised copies of many of Josephine Tey's works freely available for download. Some other titles are available via Project Gutenberg Australia.

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