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A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey

A Shilling for Candles (1936)

by Josephine Tey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Alan Grant Mysteries (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8102411,269 (3.74)125
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» See also 125 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Strange that I can't find a record of reading The Man in the Queue to compare the rating. Nevertheless, I am almost entirely certain, going on my memory which is shaky even though it wasn't that long ago, I'm sure, that I last reread the first of Tey's mysteries, that this is a significant leap forward in terms of the quality of writing. I was reminded how much I love Tey, and that I really mustn't leave it so long between rereads. She may not be quite at Dorothy L Sayer level of genius, but certainly ranks up there with Marsh (I don't care much for Christie, hence the omission.)

Plot-wise, things could be a tad tighter, however that did not detract appreciably from my overall enjoyment. Particularly good was the characterisation: even fairly insignificant characters were effectively fleshed-out, and I particularly like Erica Burgoyne whose youthful eccentric charm was an utter delight.

As an aside, I have just noticed that Hitchcock made a film extremely loosely based upon this novel in 1937 (Young and Innocent UK and The Girl Was Young US). I wonder what Tey thought of it? He completely changed the plot (including whodunnit), made Erica a beautiful young lady rather than a scruffy albeit spunky adolescent, and left out Inspector Grant! I'm sure it's a fine film, but A Shilling for Candles it ain't! ( )
  Vivl | Jun 16, 2014 |
It was ok but the racism and snobbishness were too much for me. ( )
1 vote SChant | Oct 21, 2013 |
On the one hand, Tey writes with both social conscience and humor, freeing her readers from Christie-induced exhaustion and cringing. On the other hand, *what* is up with the ending? Too much crazy. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
A very enjoyable murder mystery featuring Josephine Tey's imaginative detective Inspector Alan Grant. The body of a young woman is found drowned in an area notorious for suicides, but nothing is as it seems. Once again the emphasis is on character rather than detection, though the solution is better incorporated into the story than in "The Man in the Queue". Lots of really diverting red herrings too! Recommended for fans of Ms Tey. ( )
  Figgles | Apr 14, 2013 |

I wish I hadn't left getting better acquainted with Josephine Tey's writing for quite so long. In this novel, Tey's second, Inspector Alan Grant investigates the murder of a famous actress, whose death by drowning had been predicted by a celebrity clairvoyant. In her characteristically elegant prose, Tey not only delivers an interesting piece of Golden Age crime fiction, she also explores the concept of celebrity. That Tey's observations on this particular issue still seem fresh today is both a testament to the stength of the writing and to the fact that some things never change.

Overall, this was a fun read. Alan Grant is a thoughtful and engaging detective, who makes mistakes and sometimes misjudges people and situations in a very realistic way. The secondary characters are also interesting and well-drawn, particularly the wonderful Erica Burgoyne. The mystery at the centre of the novel is engaging enough, with multiple red herrings and a satisfactory resolution. However, the novel does contain multiple instances of the casual anti-semitism which is a recurrent feature of pre-WWII British crime fiction. It is jarring and unpleasant to a contemporary reader, but something which I can generally cope with in this genre.

My enjoyment of this novel was increased by it being a buddy read with my friend Jemidar, who correctly identifed the culprit very early on. Once Jemidar picked the murderer, all Inspector Grant had to do was work out how the murder was committed. A solid 3-1/2 to 4 star read. ( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Josephine Teyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a little after seven on a summer morning, and William Potticary was taking his accustomed way over the short down grass of the cliff-top.
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Book description
A woman's body is found on the English seacoast, and twisted in her hair is an article screaming murder. For Inspector Alan Grant, the case becomes a nightmare, as too many clues and too many motives arise.

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'. 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?

Robert Tisdall seems the logical suspect in actress Christine Clay's murder because he had much to gain from her death. Terrified by the prospect of arrest and aware that proving his innocence would be virtually impossible, Tisdall disappears. The suspect is absolved by the determined investigative work of the local chief constable's daughter, Erica Burgoyne, who finds Tisdall's missing overcoat and proves that the button entangled in the victim's hair did not belong to him.


A girl's body in a green bathing-dress washed up early one summer morning and left high and dry by the ebbing tide — apparently just another accident to a foolish bather. But the strange girl turns out to be no ordinary holiday-maker after all and the results of her death reach over the world, nor was it quite as accidental as it seemed. A clause in the deceased's will —"to my brother a shilling for candles" — gives the book its title and the police one of their clues in a thrilling manhunt.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684842386, Paperback)

A woman's body is found on the English seacoast, and twisted in her hair is an article screaming murder. For Inspector Alan Grant, the case becomes a nightmare, as too many clues and too many motives arise.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:29 -0400)

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The drowned body of a famous actress is found on a beach near the cottage where she had been staying incognito with a young man.

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Average: (3.74)
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