A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey

A Shilling for Candles, is the fourth book by Josephine Tey that I’ve read. It was first published in 1936 and is the second book in her Inspector Grant series. I enjoyed it but I have to admit that I don’t think it’s as good as the other books by her that I’ve read, namely:

  • The Daughter of Time, first published in 1951, a fascinating novel in which Inspector Alan Grant is in hospital and to keep his mind occupied he decides to discover whether Richard III really did murder his nephews ‘“ the Princes in the Tower;
  • Miss Pym Disposes, first published in 1946, a psychological study of characters and motives, in which Miss Pym investigates the death of a student at a physical training college; and
  • The Franchise Affair, first published in 1948, set in a post Second World War England reflecting the social attitudes of its time and based on a real case from the 18th century of a girl who went missing and later claimed she had been kidnapped.

Inspector Alan Grant investigates the apparent suicide of a young and beautiful film star, Christine Clay, who was found dead beneath the cliffs of the south coast. But he soon discovers that was in fact murder as a coat button was found twisted in her hair and he suspects a young man, Robin Tisdall who had been staying with Christine in a remote cottage near the beach, especially when it is revealed that she has named him as a beneficiary in her will. Tisdall has lost his coat and so the search is on to find it to prove either his innocence or guilt.

But it is not so straight forward and Grant has other suspects – Christine’s aristocratic and wealthy husband, an American songwriter, and her estranged brother to whom she had left the gift of ‘ a shilling for candles’. Then there are her friends, including the actress Marta Hart, a leading lady, Judy Sellers, who played dumb blondes and Lydia Keats, an astrologer who casts horoscopes for the movie stars.

Other characters include my favourite in the book, Erica Burgoyne, the Chief Constable’s 17 year old daughter, a quirky character who proves to be most resourceful.

I enjoyed it but thought that overall it was a bit messy, a bit all over the place, as Grant dashed about the south coast and London. It’s definitely a book of its time with several casual anti-Semitic references and Tey has used a lot of slang and idioms that aren’t so recognisable today. There are red herrings and plenty of twists and turns, all of which meant that although at first I identified the culprit, by the end I had no idea who it was. What I thought was more interesting is the way she wrote about the destructive nature of celebrity and the lengths to which the stars went to keep some privacy in their lives – not so different from today.

This book fits into several of the challenges I’m doing this year – the 20 Books of Summer, Mount TBR Reading Challenge, the Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt (in the category of a cover showing a body of water) and the Read Scotland Challenge, because Josephine Tey, whose real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh (1896 – 1952). She was a Scottish author who wrote mainly mystery novels.

Josephine Tey’s books:

Alan Grant
The Man in the Queue (1929) aka Killer in the Crowd
A Shilling for Candles (1936) (the basis of Hitchcock’s 1937 movie Young and Innocent)
The Franchise Affair (1948) 
To Love and Be Wise (1950)
The Daughter of Time (1951)
The Singing Sands (1952)

Novels
Kif: an Unvarnished History (1929) (writing as Gordon Daviot)
The Expensive Halo (1931)
Miss Pym Disposes (1946)
Brat Farrar (1949) aka Come and Kill Me
The Privateer (1952)
Non-Fiction

Claverhouse (1937) (writing as Gordon Daviot) A biography of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (1648 ‘“ 1689), known as ‘Bonnie Dundee’after leading the Jacobites to victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, in which he lost his life.

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; First Thus edition (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099556685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099556688
  • Source: I bought my copy

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh(1896 ‘“ 1952). She was a Scottish author who wrote mainly mystery novels (see the list at the end of this post). I read The Daughter of Time some years ago and thought it was an excellent book, a mix of historical research and detective work. Inspector Alan Grant is in hospital and to keep his mind occupied he decides to discover whether Richard III really did murder his nephews ‘“ the Princes in the Tower. I’ve also read The Franchise Affair, which I thought was also an excellent book.

I bought Miss Pym Disposes at the local village hall when I went to vote  in the European Election in June 2014. There was a table full of books for sale ‘“ nothing to do with the election, but a bonus for me! Based on the other two books I’d read by Tey I thought it would be a good buy. And it was. It is set in the 1940s and was first published in 1946.

I knew from the synopsis that Miss Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to Leys Physical Training College to give a lecture on psychology. But then there was a’nasty accident‘.

So I was wondering about that ‘nasty accident’ as I began reading the book – who has the accident and is it really an accident, and if so who was responsible for the accident? It all seemed to be plain sailing until something happened that nobody expected and it was that that triggered the ‘accident’. It was intriguing and very cleverly written.

There is a long build up to the accident.  Miss Pym had been a French teacher at a girls’ High School until she inherited some money, left teaching and wrote a best-selling psychology book. She was invited to Leys by her old school friend, Henrietta Hodge, the college Principal and stayed on there for a few days, that extended into two weeks as she got to know and like the students and the staff. However, she realises that all is not as perfect at the college as she had thought, alerted to that fact that when one of the students, Teresa Desterro, tells her that everyone is just a little bit insane in this last week of term – ‘It is not a normal life they lead. You cannot expect them to be normal.‘ Miss Pym observes how strenuous their studies are and the stress and anxiety the senior students go through in their final exams and learn where Henrietta has found jobs for them, or if she has found jobs for them.

This is not a conventional crime fiction novel. It’s a psychological study focussing on the characters, their motivation and analysis of facial characteristics. It looks at the consequences of what people do and say and, as Miss Pym discovers who she thinks is responsible, it also looks at how much a person should intervene, or as one of the characters tells her, ‘Do the obvious right thing, and let God dispose.’ Miss Pym agonises over her decision, was she really going to condemn someone to death?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, such a delight to read, a book that is beautifully written. I thought the slow build up to the ‘accident’ was perfect and I kept changing my mind about who would be involved – and it has such a good twist at the end.

It is the ideal book for these challenges: Bev’s Mount TBR Reading Challenge, her Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt in the category ‘More Than Two people’, and Peggy Ann’s Read Scotland Challenge.

Josephine Tey’s books:

Alan Grant
The Man in the Queue (1929) aka Killer in the Crowd
A Shilling for Candles (1936) (the basis of Hitchcock’s 1937 movie Young and Innocent)
The Franchise Affair (1948) (my review)
To Love and Be Wise (1950)
The Daughter of Time (1951)
The Singing Sands (1952)

Novels
Kif: an Unvarnished History (1929) (writing as Gordon Daviot)
The Expensive Halo (1931)
Miss Pym Disposes (1946)
Brat Farrar (1949) aka Come and Kill Me
The Privateer (1952)
Non-Fiction

Claverhouse (1937) (writing as Gordon Daviot) A biography of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (1648 – 1689), known as “Bonnie Dundee” after leading the Jacobites to victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, in which he lost his life.

My Week in Books: 9 March 2016

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Then – I’m  beginning this post with the book I’ve recently finished reading – Doctor Thorne (see this post for my review). Julian Fellowes’ adaptation of this book is currently on ITV and I was in two minds about watching it, but I thought I’d at least watch the first episode. However, as I expected, there are too many changes from the book for me to enjoy watching it. It is so condensed, and too much is revealed too early, so I have decided not to watch the next two parts.

Now and Next – After finishing Doctor Thorne I couldn’t decide what to read next and began reading three books. This happens to me sometimes and I expect I’ll soon concentrate on just one of these books and go back to the others later.

Blurb: Leys Physical Training College was famous for its excellent discipline and Miss Lucy Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to give a psychology lecture there. But she had to admit that the health and vibrant beauty of the students made her feel just a little inadequate.

Then there was a nasty accident – and suddenly Miss Pym was forced to apply her agile intellect to the unpleasant fact that among all those impressively healthy bodies someone had a very sick mind…

Blurb: ‘He was sickened also with all these lies. His very soul was dismayed by the dirt through which he was forced to wade. He had become unconsciously connected with the lowest dregs of mankind, and would have to see his name mingled with theirs in the daily newspapers’

Mark Robarts is a clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he agrees to guarantee a bill for a large sum of money for the disreputable local Member of Parliament, while being helped in his career in the Church by the same hand. But the unscrupulous politician reneges on his financial obligations, and Mark must face the consequences this debt may bring to his family.

Blurb: From Radio 4’s James Naughtie, a sophisticated thriller about loyalty, survival and family rivalry deep in the Cold War, drawing on decades of experience as a political insider in Westminster and Washington.

It is a sweltering July in the mid-1970s, and for Will Flemyng, foreign office minister, the temperature is rising with each passing hour. A mysterious death has exposed secret passions in government, bringing on a political crisis that will draw him back into a familiar world of danger and deceit.

For Flemyng has a past. He was trained as a spy for a life behind enemy lines and now he’s compelled to go back. In the course of one long weekend he must question all his loyalties: to his friends, his enemies, and to his own two brothers. Only then can he expose the truth in London and Washington. When he has walked through the fire.

And I’m still slowly making progress with SPQR by Mary Beard, the Kindle edition (I read some of this every day).

Blurb: Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories – from Romulus and Remus to the Rape of Lucretia – still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today.

SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world’s foremost classicists. It explores not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria, but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements, and why they are still important to us.

What are you reading this week – and have you read any of these books? Do let me know.

Wondrous Words from The Franchise Affair

Each Wednesday Kathy (Bermuda Onion) runs the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme to share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.

This week my words are from The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (see here for my description of this book).

 

  • Drugget – “Round the corner it is drugget. A Victorian way of economising. Nowadays if you are poor you buy less expensive carpet and use it all the way up. But those were the days when what the neighbours thought mattered. So the lush stuff went as far as the eye could see and no further.”

Drugget is woven and felted coarse woollen fabric; a protective covering made of such fabric, for a  floor or carpet.

  • Preceptors – “It was a savage emotion, primitive and cruel; and very startling on the face of a demure schoolgirl who was the pride of  her guardians and preceptors.”

Preceptor is a teacher, an instructor, a tutor. It’s also the head of a school; the head of a preceptory of Knights Templars.

  • Picking Oakum – “You can’t imagine what a relief your note was to us. Both mother and I have been picking oakum for the last week. Do they still pick oakum, by the way?

Picking Oakum was untwisting old ropes and was done by prisoners and inmates of workhouses – appropriate in this case as Marion and her mother were virtually prisoners in their own house.

  • Oleograph – “Ben Carley calls her the ‘oleograph‘, by the way.” “How lovely. That is just what she is like.”

Oleograph is a print in in oil-colours to imitate an oil painting.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: T is for The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

I’ve read two books by Josephine Tey – The Daughter of Time and now The Franchise Affair. Josephine Tey was a pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh(1896 – 1952). She was a Scottish author who wrote mainly mystery novels.

I read The Daughter of Time a few years ago and thought it was an excellent book, a mix of historical research and detective work. Inspector Alan Grant is in hospital and to keep his mind occupied he decides to discover whether Richard III really did murder his nephews – the Princes in the Tower.

Franchise Affair001When I saw this hardback secondhand copy of The Franchise Affair on sale last year (on a hospital book sale trolley, for £1) I had to buy it and have been going to read it ever since. So as Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet series has reached the letter T I thought now was the right time to read it.

It is also an excellent book, one I devoured and enjoyed immensely. It was first published in 1948 and it’s set in a post Second World War England reflecting the social attitudes of its time. It’s actually based on a real case from the 18th century of a girl who went missing and later claimed she had been kidnapped.

The Franchise is a “flat white house“, isolated on a road out of the town of Milford, surrounded by a “high solid wall of brick, with a large double gate, of wall height” – “the iron lace of the original gates had been lined, in some Victorian desire for privacy, by flat sheets of iron, and the wall was too high for anything inside to be visible”, except for a distant view of roof and chimneys“. It’s where Marion Sharpe and her mother live.

DI Grant is just a minor character in this story, the main investigator is local solicitor, Robert Blair, of Blair, Hayward and Bennet. He doesn’t normally deal with criminal cases but Marion appeals to him for help because she and her mother are accused of kidnapping Betty Kane, a girl of fifteen, of holding her prisoner for a month in their attic, and of beating her unless she agreed to work for them.  She’d escaped one night and arrived back home, covered in bruises.

Even though Betty Kane is able to describe them,  their house and its contents accurately the Sharpes completely deny her story. Reluctantly Robert agrees to give legal advice and is then drawn into investigating what had happened to Betty during the time she claimed she had been held captive, becoming convinced of their innocence. His life is completely changed. The problem is that it is possible to believe Betty’s story and also to find it a complete invention from beginning to end.

Betty is described as an innocent with baby blue eyes, intelligent and truthful – how could she have invented such a story? Marion and Mrs Sharpe on the other hand are a bit odd, a bit eccentric, keeping themselves to themselves and distrusted by the locals. Mrs Sharpe is intimidating – Robert thinks  she is “capable of beating seven different people between breakfast and lunch any day of the week“, but he rather likes Marion’s “habit of mockery“. In fact he is rather smitten by Marion.

Then the press get hold of the story and public opinion is outraged at the tale of Betty’s ordeal. The case goes to trial as the Sharpes are vilified and their house attacked. The letters to the newspaper shock Robert with their contents:

… he marvelled all over again at the venom that these unknown women had aroused in the writers’ minds. Rage and hatred spilled over on to the paper; malice ran unchecked through the largely illiterate sentences. It was an amazing exhibition. And one of the oddities of it was that the dearest wish of so many of these indignant protestors against violence was to flog the said women within an inch of their lives. (page 103)

But worse is to come as the trial comes to an end and hatred results in actions. I found it an irresistable book. I just had to know what happens, all the time convinced of the Sharpes’ innocence but somehow wondering if they really were guilty. I liked Tey’s style of writing, straight forward, with touches of irony. Her characters are believable, well developed and unforgettable. The locations are well described, although as I used to live near some of them I may be biased there.

Now I want to read more of Josephine Tey’s books. She didn’t write many, but I hope to read at least some of these (list copied from Wikipedia):

  • The Man in the Queue also known as Killer in the Crowd (1929)
  •  A Shilling for Candles (1936) (the basis of Hitchcock’s 1937 movie Young and Innocent)
  • Miss Pym Disposes (1946)
  • Brat Farrar [or Come and Kill Me] (1949)
  • To Love and Be Wise (1950)
  • The Singing Sands (1952)
  • Kif: An Unvarnished History (1929) (writing as Gordon Daviot)
  • The Expensive Halo (1931)
  • The Privateer (1952)
  • Claverhouse (1937) (writing as Gordon Daviot) (a life of the 17th-century cavalry leader John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee)