by Josephine Tey
Publication Date: January 1, 1992
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
En route to a holiday in Scotland, Inspector Alan Grant is drawn into a local police investigation when a fellow passenger is found dead on his train. Although it looks like a simple accident, Grant is unconvinced, and, at the expense of his vacation, he undertakes to determine what, exactly, happened to Charles Martin.
Unpublished at the time of author Josephine Tey’s death, The Singing Sands was recovered from her papers and released posthumously. It is today recognized as one of the author’s finest works.
My second Inspector Grant mystery, and the last one Tey wrote, discovered amongst her papers after her death and published posthumously. My first Grant novel was Daughter of Time and given the uniqueness of that story, I had no idea what to expect of this one.
What I got was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I’ve read in awhile, even though there’s really no mystery to it in the sense of ‘whodunnit’. Instead I’d call this a soul searching police procedural; ‘soul searching’ because, at a guesstimate, fully half the book is about Grant’s struggle to recover from exhaustion and anxiety in the highlands of Scotland. What might have felt like a stagnant meandering book in the hands of others, just worked here, although I have to admit to not really understanding Wee Archie’s role in the plot beyond an un-needed reference point for vanity.
The police procedural part, oddly enough, is the part that lagged a bit for me. This surprised me, but I suppose on reflection it makes sense; there’s only ever one suspect and I grew impatient with wanting the evidence to present itself. It did, of course, eventually, and in an unexpected manner, providing a tidy ending that still worked and managed to be satisfying, even if it wasn’t perfect justice.
Knowing this was Tey’s final work made the ending a bit bittersweet, as Grant seems ready and raring to go on further adventures that were sadly not destined to happen, but at least there are still 4 others waiting out there for me to enjoy.