A Shilling for Candles was the second mystery novel published by Josephine Tey, and the second book in the Inspector Grant series. I re-read this book for the Past Offences Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge for 1936 and I enjoyed it so much I want to re-read all of her mysteries.
In this novel, the dead body of a young woman is discovered on a beach, and is at first assumed to be a suicide or accidental drowning. It takes awhile to identify the victim. She had been vacationing at a cottage nearby under an assumed name, and the man staying with her claims to know her only by her first name. Eventually the police discover that she is the famous movie actress, Christine Clay. Inspector Grant shows up when evidence is uncovered that points to murder.
I like Josephine Tey's novels because they focus more on the characters, and less on the crime and the solution. Inspector Grant is not your usual police detective, although he is well known and has a good reputation for his work. He agonizes over decisions and how to approach the investigation. In this novel, Erica Burgoyne, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the Chief Constable, and Jammy Hopkins, a reporter, are key characters who give us another view of the world of England in the 1930's. Christine Clay's is also a very well-developed character, even though we don't encounter her until she is dead. Through the accounts of acquaintances, family and friends, we see a full picture of her and the drawbacks of a life of fame and fortune but little privacy. I cannot leave out Robert Tisdall, the man who was living with Christine at the time of her death. Because of the unusual circumstances, he is immediately a suspect.
Another interesting aspect of this novel is the picture of the world of actors and the theater, which Tey had much experience with. This is a slow-paced but entertaining novel (if the mystery plot is not your major concern), and I am eager to re-read more of the books in the Grant series, to see how they compare. The remainder of the novels were written after World War II and it will be interesting to see how they reflect the differences of that period in England also.
Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth Mackintosh. She was born in Scotland in 1896 and died in 1952. She also wrote plays and non-mystery novels under the name Gordon Daviot. Nicola Upson has written a mystery series featuring Tey as the main character. There is an interesting page at Upson's website which talks about Tey's life.
This book was made into a movie, Young and Innocent, by Alfred Hitchcock, which was released in 1937. Based on book reviews I read, the adaptation is very loose but may be entertaining.
Publisher: Collier Books, 1988 (orig. pub. 1936)
Length: 226 pages
Series: Inspector Alan Grant, #2
Genre: Police procedural
Source: I purchased this book.