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The Singing Sands (Inspector Alan Grant #6)

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,790 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
On his train journey back to Scotland for a well-earned rest, Inspector Grant learns that a fellow passenger, one Charles Martin, has been found dead. It looks like a case of misadventure - but Grant is not so sure. Teased by some enigmatic lines of verse that the deceased had apparently scrawled on a newspaper, he follows a trail to the Outer Hebrides.

And though it is the
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 5th 2002 by Arrow (first published 1952)
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Apr 09, 2013 Harry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Josephine Tey is the pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh (1896-1952). Both a playwright (under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot) and novelist and due to a fierce predilection to keeping her life private, little is known about this author. She guarded her life jealously, avoided the press, side-stepped photographers, and never did any interviews. Biographers for the most part are therefore fairly well pissed-off about the whole secretive thing.

Josephine Tey

And that's actually why Tey's novels are a bit of a game wi
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 08, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery Lovers
Sadly Tey wrote only eight mysteries, and this is her last, published posthumously. I don't think it's among her best. I'd rate it perhaps sixth out of the eight, but it's still a great read, and stands out as a character study of her detective, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard.

When he first appeared in The Man in the Queue he struck me as rather bland especially compared to such sleuths as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey. With the possible exception of The Daughter of
Feb 20, 2015 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
Quite a few murder mysteries begin with their victim alive, just long enough that the reader comes to know and like him. (I hate that.) With The Singing Sands, the victim is dead from the beginning, but I still got to know and like him through the course of the book, even as Alan Grant did. (I hate that too, but at least there's a requiem feeling about it here.)

Much as with Daughter of Time, Alan is laid up and in need of something to take him outside himself. Here, though, Alan is on medical l
Anne Hamilton
Nov 25, 2014 Anne Hamilton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this story. The panic attacks that afflict Alan Grant are just so affecting. His desperate need for time off work - and his retreat to the Scottish Highlands - are the catalyst for an investigation of the death of a passenger on the same overnight train.

Grant inadvertedly picks up a newspaper and later finds it belongs to the deceased. A scribble in the blank Stop Press section intrigues him: a line of verse that mentions singing sands and talking beasts.

It appears the deceased met his
May 01, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Inspector Alan Grant’s nerves are frayed and he needs to get away from Scotland Yard for some rest and recreation. He leaves by train to visit his cousin and her husband on their farm in Scotland, planning on fishing the local waters and relaxing. His future activities are altered when he discovers the dead body of a young man on the train. Grant’s investigative instincts kick in and he uses the lines from a poem the young man had written about THE SINGING SANDS to find out who the deceased was ...more
Aug 19, 2009 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read mystery books not for blood and gore, but for atmosphere and suspense. The Singing Sands, like Tey's other books, is very well-written and provides a contemporary glimpse into another place and time: 1950-ish Scotland. As always, the characters are intriguing and the story is suspenseful. Note that this not a traditional mystery in the sense that the clues are all provided fairly early in the narrative. The reader's deductive powers are still put to good use.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is travelling to the Highlands on leave, but a mystery awaits him on the sleeper.

Free download at Project Gutenberg Australia
Apr 28, 2016 Rage rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
so many people have written thoughtful and lovely reviews of this book. I enjoyed the book, and I enjoyed the characters, but I was disappointed by the mystery. maybe if I hadn't viewed this as a mystery, I wouldn't have felt that my genre-based expectations weren't being met. I was really unsatisfied with the form the confession took; the end of the book felt kind of haphazard, unimportant. maybe that's just me. I really wish I read Josephine Tey's books and enjoyed them as much as other people ...more
Maggie Craig
I found this book astonishing and not in a good way. I understand the ms was found among Josephine Tey's papers after she died - in 1952, I believe. I think her publishers should have left it there. It's a bitter little book, threaded through with the most appalling prejudice against Scots and all things Scottish. This is all the more unpleasant when Josephine Tey was herself Scottish. So was her fictional detective.

Over the last few days since I finished The Singing Sands I've really swithered
Aug 12, 2014 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tey's five Alan Grant novels (six if you count The Franchise Affair, in which he makes a brief appearance or two) are each quite different from the next. The Singing Sands, the last of them, is no exception. It gives the impression of having been stitched together using two quite different ideas Tey had for a novel: the one a comedy about the people of the Hebrides, the other a sort of John Buchanesque plot about the mystical lost city of Wabar, the Shangri-La of the Arabian desert. Holding all ...more
Terri Lynn
I really didn't like this Josephine Tey novel at all. This was so disappointing to me. The last book of hers that I read was so deliciously good, I had high expectations for this one. Right at the beginning, detective Alan Grant is on a train going to visit friends and take a few weeks off because he is "nervous". Huh? His supervisor chastises him, saying that other detectives keep on with their work and not understanding why he is so nervous he can't work. Though he is claustrophobic, he acts l ...more
Victoria Mixon
I like Josephine Tey, I really do, even though she was another of those successful women writers of the 1940s and '50s who felt obliged to diss women in order to be taken seriously by the men in her field. She was creative, imaginative, and completely grounded in concrete, telling details---an absolute pro.

And I do like this story, maybe because I love the mythical imagery of things that do things they aren't supposed to do: sands singing, stones walking, streams standing, beasts talking.

But yo
D.S. Nelson
Jan 22, 2012 D.S. Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book, when my mum gleefully thrust it into my hands, following the Christmas celebrations on boxing day. ‘You’ll like this’ I was told and I indeed devoured it. Every bit as wonderful as Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey born Elizabeth Mackintosh, wrote her first novel in 1929. Many of her mysteries were not published until after the second world war but her style is so modern that at first I was not aware she was a contemporary of Christie’s.

The main protagonist, Inspector Alan G
Jen Locke
Oct 04, 2012 Jen Locke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely book! I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I felt like it started off slowly, which always makes it difficult for me to keep going.

It's interesting how it looked at the impact stress can have on a person's emotional/mental well-being. All of the themes were interesting, though: greed/vanity, the mystery (the driving force behind the plot), the worth and depth of friendship, kindness, fascination with exotic places and so on. It was also quite interesting how the autho
Feb 15, 2009 Dawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I went on a little mystery jag. I liked The Man in the Queue, so I checked out The Singing Sands next. I didn't know it at the time, but it so happens that "Queue" was her first book and "Sands" was her last. Given that time lapse, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more character development of Inspector Grant. She tried in some token ways--he's had a nervous breakdown, we meet his relatives in Scotland--but there is no real internal change or growth, though he has some opportunity to d ...more
Nov 13, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-reread
Problematic. I love the first part of the book, which manages to be a complex chronicle of a nervous breakdown and its recovery, a great tour of Scotland, and a fun fishing trip. I remembered loving it and read that part very slowly, savoring it. I had forgotten that the second half of the book--a return to a more traditional detective novel--is disappointing, even though it fits with the character of Alan Grant, even though it follows through on the mystery of the man in B Seven, even though it ...more
Sep 25, 2011 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling, artful prose. The mystery features a sherlock-holmesian inspector burnt out due to what seem to be hints of PTSD manifesting with severe claustrophobia. The setting up of the mystery of the Singing Sands is fairly strong at the beginning and then follows through at the end but solving the mystery occasionally feels like a footnote during the bulk of the story. Frankly I was all right with it. Truly, for this book, I liked it. I liked Inspector Grant and the dry, genuine humor of Pat ...more
Dec 23, 2012 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A lovely book with some great descriptions of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides. For Tey the whodunit aspect is a bit secondary -- for example, she "cheats" by introducing information needed to solve the crime too late in the book. But that's not really the point. The focus is really on the character of Grant, his relationships, and the direction he decides take in life. Tey also offers some great, witty insights -- like this:

"As someone had pointed out, when man first dreamed of flying he
Morgan Gallagher
May 30, 2013 Morgan Gallagher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of my really liking it was that I finally got to read a book that had beguiled me from my teens. It was a set reader in the year above me at school, and I kept looking at it in the cupboard and yearning for the mystical magical place it was describing, where sands sangs and stones walked.

It's an Alan Grant story, and it's a good detective yarn. Dated, but just as pleasurable for the detail in the dating, as anything else. I did find the slow rumble around the Highlands & Islands of Scot
May 10, 2008 Stven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: British mystery fans
Recommended to Stven by: Myrtle
Having heard all my life of Josephine Tey, it is only now that I've gotten around to reading one of her books, and it happens to be the one mystery novel of her six to have been published posthumously.

Her prose is good quality stuff, nicely paced and evocative. Her characters are amusing and her attitude is thoroughly English. "The quality of Scotchness was a highly concentrated essence, and should always be diluted. As an ingredient it was admirable; neat, it was as abominable as ammonia."

Apr 30, 2016 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written little mystery is the reading equivalent of watching an episode of Midsomer Murders if it was set in Scotland in the early 1950s. Inspector Alan Grant is a seasoned Scotland Yard detective who is hiding his ailment--fear of enclosed spaces--while trying to cope with what he sees as a weakness. Despite his plan to rest and recover, he stumbles (almost literally) across a murder victim. Tey's characters are all lovingly developed right down to their varying Scottish dialec ...more
Diane Lynn
Typical Alan Grant detective work. This time he is suffering from claustrophobia, but manages to get the job done.
Nov 21, 2015 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans
Recommended to Jeanne by: Judy Bomgardner
This is an old-fashioned British mystery in the style of Agatha Christie.

Published in 1953, The Singing Sands shows the reader a world and time different from our own. Not just the fictional place and time, but the writer’s post-WWII perspective. How different are our current views on Arabia, on smoking, on air travel, for example.

British colloquialisms caused me to miss many finer points, I am certain, but I very much enjoyed the visit to the wilds of Scotland and to trout fishing. The author’s
Katie Bee
I really liked the setup for this book - that Grant has had a breakdown from overwork (mostly manifested in overwhelming claustrophobia and depression), takes a holiday in Scotland to recover, and is healed by a combination of outside air and the mystery he stumbles into on his train North. Grant is not an infallible detective - he is human and shows both physical and mental fragility.

I also liked his relationships with both his friends' 9-year-old boy, and the friend of the murdered man. The fo
Aug 05, 2015 Alger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A troublesome book that is hard to not like, yet it left me cold.

There is no fault to the writing of course. Tey's writerly style is both observant and carefully precise. One imagines her successive drafts as slow evolutionary changes from one selection of words to another of almost the same meanings but whole other shades of meanings. I love that kind of precision in an author, I love books that are shaped purposefully by the author so that the events are not just described, but are instead sug
Jan 25, 2015 Shari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Josephine Tey rea, and, true to form, I begin with her last, the one that was published posthumously. Val McDermid, the author who wrote the Introduction to this piece, referred to Tey's 'spinsterhood,' her reluctance to interview or to have her picture taken, the implication being that there might be a nod to ambiguous sex/gender roles. That is perhaps information for a biography and may have something to do with her writing, but I found her 'love' stories, the relationships, a ...more
Mar 29, 2016 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspector Alan Grant is suffering from panic attacks and severe claustrophobia as a result of overwork and has a few weeks off from his job at Scotland Yard to recover from his nervous exhaustion. He travels to the north of Scotland on the sleeper to stay with his cousin Laura and her family to see if fresh air, peace and quiet and good food will restore him to his normal equilibrium.

But if seems he is not to be spared the corpses even when he isn't working and as he is getting off the sleeper h
Barbara Scott-Emmett
Good plot but I'm afraid the condescending attitude of Grant (via Tey) put me right off. She says at one point that only the lower middle classes look down on people, then proceeds to look down her nose at anyone who lacks 'good manners' and 'good taste' - in her (or Grant's) opinion. I got the feeling the attitude was Tey's rather than merely that of her main character.

Without the deplorable attitude towards the working classes (stupid and slatternly mainly), foreigners ("An Englshman wouldn't
Mar 30, 2012 Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tey is so remarkable in that each of her novels is a completely unique creative effort. As a major "golden-age-of-detective-fiction-phile", I am well aware of the unwritten rules of such mysteries, and I am so impressed at how much variety each of her novels show within the genre. That is why I love Baroque music, too: when the rules of composition are so strict, it shows mastery at the greater variation one can contrive within those rules.
Mar 21, 2016 Chazzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I have enjoyed Josephine Tey's writing over the years. Hers are not simple mysteries but rather complex. Small clues can be found as you read along, but they can easily be missed.

Inspector Alan Grant is on a forced holiday visiting relatives in the country, after suffering from a nervous breakdown from over work. As he is leaving the train he sees a sleeping-car attendant man-handling a passenger that seems to be in a drunken sleep. To Grant's eye it is apparent that the man isn't asleep, but is
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Josephine Tey was a pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh. Josephine was her mother's first name and Tey the surname of an English Grandmother. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, 'The Man in the Queue' (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot , whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 19
More about Josephine Tey...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Alan Grant (6 books)
  • The Man in the Queue (Inspector Alan Grant, #1)
  • A Shilling for Candles (Inspector Alan Grant, #2)
  • The Franchise Affair (Inspector Alan Grant, #3)
  • To Love and Be Wise (Inspector Alan Grant, #4)
  • The Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant, #5)

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“It would do her good to have some demons to fight, to be swung out in space and held over some bottomless pit now and then.” 0 likes
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