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Four, Five and Six by Tey: A Shilling For Candles/Daughter of Time/Singing Sands
Four Five and Six by Tey A Shilling For Candles/Daughter of Time/Singing Sands Author:Josephine Tey Amazon Review By Michele L. Worley, April 26, 2003 — Four, Five and Six by Tey -- An Omnibus of Three Inspector Alan Grant stories — This omnibus' somewhat unusual title just indicates that it would complement its sibling, Three by Tey, since they don't overlap. The 3 books in this volume are 3 of Inspector Alan Grant's adventures. — Elizabeth Mack... more »intosh ("Josephine Tey" was a pseudonym) was primarily a playwright; she only produced 8 mystery novels altogether, 7 featuring Grant. Incidentally, she used yet another pseudonym, "Gordon Daviot", as both a playwright and for the original publication of many of her books. Note that taking the two omnibi THREE BY TEY and FOUR, FIVE, AND SIX BY TEY means 2 books are left out (THE MAN IN THE QUEUE and TO LOVE AND BE WISE).
A SHILLING FOR CANDLES (1936) was Mackintosh's 2nd mystery novel, with an emphasis on 'novel' rather than 'who done it?' Tey isn't particularly interested in playing fair with the reader here, but I personally can live with that since the book works as a story.
The unusual title comes from a still more unusual clause in the last will and testament of superstar actress Christine Clay - an enigmatic legacy to her estranged brother. Clay worked her way up from nothing, with a mother who spoiled her brother rotten while having all kinds of excuses why Christine couldn't have proper schooling. Christine managed to escape to the life of the stage; her rise was so rapid that when she married a wealthy man with a title, she was considered to have made a catch, but within a couple of years *he* was thought of as 'Christine Clay's husband'. (Her background, gradually uncovered by police investigation, is enough to support a story in itself.) Now she has been found drowned at the lonely seaside place she was visiting incognito, and a youngster who seems like a stereotypical victim of circumstances is on the run, suspected of her murder for what seems like an inadequate motive. And given the brilliance of Christine Clay's shining star, why was she alone on holiday, with neither a court of hangers-on nor her husband?
Grant carries part of the story's action during his investigation, but Tey isn't shackled to a stylistic formula. Erica, the local Chief Constable's 16-year-old daughter, wades in where angels fear to tread, and generally assists Robin Tisdall, one of the chief suspects, to stay out of police custody while the police try to find out how Christine died.
THE DAUGHTER OF TIME (1951) was Mackintosh's 7th and most famous novel. Before the story opens, Grant took a bad fall while in hot pursuit, and consequently is flat on his back in hospital. (Several of the authors he met during TO LOVE AND BE WISE have sent him offerings to wile away the time, which allows Tey some humour at the expense of these - of course - completely fictional colleagues. If you read the two books out of order, though, you won't get substantial spoilers about TO LOVE AND BE WISE.)
Be that as it may, Grant's long-time friend Marta Hallard suggests that Grant pass the time with a little academic investigation of some historical mystery - and given Grant's professional interest in faces, brings him copies of portraits of the principals in various juicy cases. (Some have been tackled by other novelists, such as Fiona Buckley's THE ROBSART MYSTERY). And almost by accident, Grant notices a portrait of a young man with a careworn face: a face he first sees before reading the name attached - Richard III. But first seeing it as the face of a great judge, and being annoyed with himself for reading great integrity into the face of the notorious murderer of the Princes in the Tower, Grant gets interested, and together with a young American history student of Marta's acquaintance, begins casual inquiries as to why Richard almost overnight turned into a kinslayer - to find more than they bargained for below the popularly accepted 'facts' of history.
This isn't a typical historical mystery - the only flashbacks are quotations from various sources turned up by Grant and his new friend Brent Carradine. Worth reading, but someone who insists on on-stage action may be disappointed, since the actual events are described through exposition of various academic sources rather than shown 'live'. The entire action of the book takes place in Grant's hospital room, and exactly 10 present-day characters have on-stage speaking parts (counting the telegram-delivery guy but not letter-writers).
THE SINGING SANDS (1952) was Mackintosh's 8th novel. Grant again isn't in the best of health, but this time he's on sick leave for work-related stress (in the form of claustrophobia) rather than physical injury. Unable to sleep on a train journey to Scotland, Grant has the honor of being present when the laziest railway employee in captivity discovers a corpse in a neighbouring compartment, taken at first to be dead drunk rather than merely dead - therefore not only escaping without tipping, but creating more work than 'old Yoghourt' has suffered in many a year. :)
That would have been the end of it - a dead man with an unusual face - except that Grant happened to pick up a half-written sonnet in the dead man's compartment: "The beasts that talk,/The streams that stand,/The stones that walk,/The singing sand..." *That* makes a change from Grant's daily round of investigation - what *was* the stranger up to? To Grant's eye for faces is coupled his hobby of analyzing character from handwriting style. (Hey, everybody has the right to be a bit quirky.)
Even without the mystery, I'd enjoy this as a novel; Grant is, of course, in Scotland to visit his married cousin Laura whom we heard about in THE DAUGHTER OF TIME. He simultaneously struggles to conquer and conceal his claustrophobia while poking into the open-and-shut case of accidental death his colleagues aren't interested in.« less