Introduced by Val McDermid
Illustrated by Mark Smith
One of Tey’s finest novels, this suspenseful story centres on the mysterious death of a young man on a train, and the cryptic poem that gradually reveals the greed and envy behind his demise. Award-winning artist Mark Smith illustrates.
He stumbled up the steps and across the bridge ... great bursts of steam billowed up round him from below, noises clanged and echoed from the dark vault about him. They were all wrong about hell, he thought. Hell wasn’t a nice cosy place where you fried ... Hell was concentrated essence of a winter morning after a sleepless night of self-distaste.
Diagnosed with ‘overwork’ and in the grip of debilitating claustrophobia, Inspector Alan Grant takes leave from Scotland Yard and heads for the peaceful home of his cousin Laura, who lives with her family in the Scottish Highlands. As the London mail draws into Inverness, he sees the surly sleeping-car attendant trying to rouse an unresponsive young man. He is compelled, firstly, to point out that the passenger is dead, and secondly to pick up the newspaper that has slipped onto the compartment floor. On it the deceased, who appears to have drunk himself into oblivion, has scrawled an elusive poem about a paradise guarded by ‘singing sand’. Grant is soon fascinated by the hopes and dreams of the dead man with ‘tumbled black hair and … reckless eyebrows’. And though he has planned to do nothing in Scotland but fish, he cannot help but act on the growing suspicion that a far more sinister story is waiting to be uncovered …
Winner of Silver medal (book category) in the Illustrators 57 competition,
at the Society of Illustrators in New York
Introducing this edition, the acclaimed crime writer Val McDermid explores Tey’s enduring popularity among readers and novelists alike. She also comments on her unconventional characterisation, including Grant’s ambiguous character and his susceptibility to the forces of ‘unreason’ – both uncommon traits in a golden-age detective. For McDermid, Tey was the bridge between that era and contemporary crime fiction, opening up the genre for writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell. Like the earlier Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair, Tey’s 1952 novel is a classic mystery, but one that is unusually sensitive to the frailties and oddities of human psychology. Mark Smith’s enigmatic illustrations capture its atmosphere of quiet suspense.
The Singing Sands is produced in series with A Shilling for Candles
From time to time, audiences ask crime writers who we would choose if we could have a single new novel from a dead crime writer. The name that comes up most frequently is not Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle or Raymond Chandler. It’s not even one of the more recently deceased such as Reginald Hill or Elmore Leonard. No, the writer’s choice of fantasy reprise is a reclusive Scottish spinster who wrote only a handful of crime novels. The writer we pick above all others is Josephine Tey.
Partly that’s because of the range and quality of the work itself. Reading Tey for the first time is a surprise and a delight; rereading her provokes the same response. But to my mind, of equal importance is Tey’s role as a bridge between the classic detective stories of the Golden Age and contemporary crime fiction. She left the genre in a different place from where she found it and she cracked open a series of doors for others to walk through.
Josephine Tey was the pen-name of Elizabeth Mackintosh, playwright and author of some of the finest detective novels from the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. She was born in Inverness in 1896, and taught physical education for a number of years before the success of her first book, The Man in the Queue, in 1929. The book introduced her detective protagonist Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard, who would appear in a further four novels, including The Franchise Affair (1948) and The Daughter of Time (1951). Tey also wrote for the theatre, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot, and had a notable success with Richard of Bordeaux in 1932, starring John Gielgud in the title role. She died in 1952, leaving her entire estate to the National Trust.
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Review by pedro7 on 6th Nov 2014
"Having bought the previous books by Tey I was looking forward to this one but I have to say I found it rather disappointing.The story wasn't up to much and the ending was farcical.One lives and learns..." [read more]
Review by archbold on 12th Oct 2014
"It was with great delight I noticed Singing Sands in the new releases for September. I had not read any of Josephine Tey's novels before buying Daughter of Time published by Folio Society a few years ..." [read more]