Mini-Review: A Shilling for Candles

Sometimes, I just have a hankering for a classy British murder novel.  One with natty detectives and mysterious ladies and pub food.

Josephine Tey's Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard isn't the over-the-top fop dandy Hercule Poirot, nor is he the ever-knitting Miss Marple.  He's quite ordinary, actually, and that's what makes him a successful hero.  He makes errors in judgment and that's okay, because he's human.  He is a bit cold emotionally, which is interesting, but I like him all the same.

In A Shilling for Candles, the second Alan Grant mystery, a woman is found drowned in the Channel.  It turns out that she was renting a cottage incognito, and was actually a famous actress.  When you get into Hollywood of the 1930s, there's always someone who wants you dead: a jilted lover, an offended seamstress, a jealous understudy.  In fact, Inspector Grant's issue in this mystery is that he simply has far too many plausible suspects with equally plausible motives!

Among them we have:

the bewildered young man who wasn't sleeping with her but maybe was?

the mysterious brother who is a religious fanatic and con man

the oh-so-nice husband who happens to be a Peer

the jealous actress "friend"

the songwriter

the actor who was going to be overshadowed by Chris in the new movie

the actress who got Chris' part

and that's not all!  Celebrity means that everyone hates you.  This was a rather thoughtful examination on how becoming famous affects you and your life when the concept of Hollywood Fame was still rather young.

There are some great stakeout scenes and a really fun chase through a foggy English night.

My only complaints would be that Chris' brother's storyline wasn't as fully developed as I would have liked, and that I had no idea what was going on with a Champneis at the end.  If anyone can clue me in, I'd be forever grateful.  I assume they were smuggling people into the country but I'm not sure why...

Anyway, a very enjoyable mystery that won't surprise you, but will make you feel all comfy-cozy inside.


  1. I have this in ebook, parked on my cyber bookshelf to be read. I actually discovered Inspector Grant in his LAST book, The Daughter Of Time, in which he never leaves his hospital bed, but investigates the cold case of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, with the help of an earnest young American research assistant. I thought it so very clever that it took me years to read another of them, The Man In The Queue. On your recommendation, I will open up my ebook, finally! :-)

    1. Oh goody! I am looking forward to The Daughter of Time very much!

      Enjoy this one! It's not super twisty but it has some lovely characterizations.


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