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The Singing Sands

(Inspector Alan Grant #6)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  4,412 ratings  ·  363 reviews
On sick leave from Scotland Yard, Inspector Alan Grant is planning a quiet holiday with an old school chum to recover from overwork and mental fatigue. Traveling on the night train to Scotland, however, Grant stumbles upon a dead man and a cryptic poem about 'the stones that walk' and 'the singing sand, ' which send him off on a fascinating search into the verse's meaning ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 16th 1996 by Scribner Paperback Fiction (first published 1952)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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 ·  4,412 ratings  ·  363 reviews

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Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
The Singing Sands is a manuscript that was found among Josephine Tey’s papers after she died in February 1952, and was published later that same year. It is therefore the conclusion of her Inspector Alan Grant series, and the end of what has been a wonderful reading experience for me.

In 2012, English journalist and author Peter Hitchens wrote that, "Josephine Tey's clarity of mind, and her loathing of fakes and of propaganda, are like pure, cold spring water in a weary land", and “what she loves
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

Published posthumously, I'd like to think that Ms Tey would have revised this novel if she had lived.

Because there is a lot to be admired about this story in which a burnt out (Nervous breakdown? PTSD?) Inspector Grant goes on sick leave. Grant's mental struggles are sympathetically described and this part of the novel works really well - as is the description of the death of a young man in a train's department and Grant being on hand for the body's discovery.

As beautifully written as some
Charles  van Buren
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The beasts that talk,
The streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand, . . . .
That guard the way To Paradise.

A death occurs at the very beginning but the real mystery doesn't make itself known until about the 60% point. It is a good, intriguing mystery but Inspector Grant seems to muddle about a bit in this one and reaches some erroneous conclusions before the mystery is laid to rest.

This is a book for those who want to read about people and places with a mystery to enliven thin
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie  Durnell
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england-uk, mystery
Excellent mystery and atmospheric settings in Scotland, I will be reading more of the intrepid Inspector Alan Grant.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, fiction, mystery, crime
Old school mystery with a satisfying wrap-everything-up-in-a-tight-package-at-the-end ending. If you like to know exactly how whodunit done it, this is your book. Feels like I have read it before, but not sure. Not my first by Tey nor my favorite but still very entertaining.
Abigail Bok
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have never been a fan of the pure police procedural. If not positively a cozy-mystery reader, I do tend to prefer mysteries that strike a balance between character development and sleuthing. The first few Inspector Alan Grant mysteries were heavy on detecting and pretty light on personality, and I read them with more respect than interest. But by the time we reach Tey's last mystery, The Singing Sands, she has invited us into the inspector's head and I found myself much more at home there.

Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 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
Roman Clodia
Perhaps my least favourite Tey and that's primarily because much of the first half is concerned with Grant's fishing holiday in Scotland. The characterisation is strong, as ever, and Tey is probably the best prose stylist of the GA - all the same, we get introduced to a dead man in the opening chapter but the real investigation doesn't gather speed till about midway through. Once Grant is back in London my interest perked up. All the same, this is eminently transparent in terms of mystery. Great ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read it years ago. I am a HUGE Josephine Tey fan. I've read all her books, wish she had written more. I need to re-read and write some proper reviews, but I know this one is a five.

I actually bought most of her books, now to go find them!

Anne Hamilton
Nov 25, 2014 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
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this is the best mystery written by Josephine Tey. It is sad for me to think of it being published posthumously. Every word and its placement was chosen with brilliance as well as a compelling drive to confirm life and humanity in all its truth, good and bad. Pretty lofty thinking, eh? Darn, but I am afraid to pick up my next book - as nothing will compare to this one. I did check this out from my library in pristine paperback condition from Touchstone. I only mention this as my e ...more
Dillwynia Peter
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A light easy read & ideal to complete a year of reading. There are a few slow portions, but they are in the 1st half. Get through them, and it picks up to a fun end.

The book is very atmospheric and is mostly set in Tey's home world - the northern portion of Scotland and the Hebrides. There really is two stories to this: Inspector Grant's recovery from mental exhaustion, and a death. The 1st half is more about the recovery of our hero & this is the part that I found slow at time. It's not glacial
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The mystery is subsidiary and unfortunately the solution relies on a letter of exposition from the perpetrator, so that was a bit disappointing... but...
Josephine Tey is simply one of the best writers I've ever come across. I'm sad that I'm almost finished with her books, because they are RICH in imagery and language. One feels merged with Alan Grant as a character, able to explore all the nooks and crannies of his mind.

In this installment, Inspector Alan Grant is ordered by his physician to tak
Andrew Gallina
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'The Singing Sands' is most assuredly a classic page turning puzzler chock full of twists and turns, adventure, cryptic messages, nefarious characters, mistaken identities, and exotic intrigue. This novel is a classic 'whodunnit' from a true 'mistress of the golden age', Josephine Tey. It is a page turner so well described and so well plotted, that the reader almost forgets he/ she is reading, and not watching the flicker of celluloid on the big screen! Excellent!! Go see it ( I mean 'read it')! ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jane by: Wall Street Journal in article 5 best books on thd Hebrides
Shelves: library, mystery
The beasts that talk,
The streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sands,

That guard the way to Paradise

This cryptic verse sends him on a hunt for the murderer of a fellow passenger on a train he is taking to Scotland. He is travelling there to recover from a nervous breakdown, where he will stay with friends. This verse takes him to the Hebrides, to France, and to London. A classic of the genre. I've read only one other of Tey's mysteries, but consider this the better of the two--unexp
K.J. Charles
Poorly structured and tiresomely misogynist murder mystery of the 'author fell in love with own main character and just wants to write about him wandering around but the publisher insisted on a plot' type. Not worth the reprint.
Maggie Craig
May 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
I was feeling homesick, so I downloaded this novel because of its references to the Outer Hebrides, and its rather evocative front cover. As a mystery, it's not bad. Who is the dead man on the train, and what does the mysterious verse mean? Inspector Alan Grant, on holiday in Scotland, determines to find out in an investigation that takes him out west, to an island based on Barra, where the plane flies in and lands on the sand. Though not the singing sand.

And then – oh my fucking God! Fair enoug
Barb in Maryland
I just 'knew' I had read this book in the way long ago times (i.e. early to mid-'60s). After all, I had read all of Tey's other mysteries after falling in love with 'Daughter of Time'...
So imagine my surprise and delight when I realized that I recognized absolutely nothing(!!) about this book at all. The greatest gift for a reader--a 'new' book by a favorite, long dead, author.
And what an absolutely delightful book!
Inspector Grant is taking a well-deserved break, necessitated by a case of comple
Nick Davies
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
A beautifully written and well balanced little mystery following Inspector Grant in his holidays to Scotland, recouperating from illness/injury and investigating a mystery which falls into his lap when doing so. There is in this a very similar set-up to 'The Daughter of Time' by the same author, though in this case the crime was more current and (1950s, when it was written) contemporary.

As pleasant a read, I'd say that the quality wring was scattered throughout, but that the central narrative f
tom bomp
Jun 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
Minor spoilers here but nothing about the mystery itself

I did not enjoy this book. It's not a typical mystery - the death occurs in the first few pages but it's not for a long time that it's thought of as in any way interesting or suspicious. And until you get to this point you get a very unconvincing story of a holiday in Scotland. That's full of hatred of Scotland and Scottish people - or at least highland ones, ones from Glasgow and god help you if you speak Gaelic. The anti-Scot thing is the
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Apparently published after Josephine Teys death, its quite a slow developing book. Language very much of its time, quite formal but not a bad story. I had looked forward to the Outer Hebrides references but they weren't very flattering!
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The manuscript of this last installment of Tey's Inspector Grant mystery was found among her things and published posthumously. It opens with a man found dead in a first class sleeping compartment when the train arrives in Scoone, Scotland. Grant sees him and moves on. Grant himself is on vacation - or probably better stated, medical leave - now suffering from claustrophobia due to overwork. A month of fishing in the Highland streams is thought to be the perfect cure. As to the man in the sleepi ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read a book by Josephine Tey I think, "This is my favorite mystery by Tey!" Well, this one so far is my favorite.

Inspector Alan Grant is on leave due to burn out and an unexpected development of claustrophobia due to work stress. He is traveling by train to Scotland where he plans to relax with a cousin's family and fish. In his compartment on the train he fights a burning desire to open the door to escape an ever growing feeling of strangulation.

Finally, he comes to his stop and wa
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.
This is a more literary book than many of the classic Golden Age mysteries I usually read. I liked the interweaving of the detective's personal life with the, somewhat secondary, mystery and thought it was very well done. I have read a few other of Tey's Inspector Grant books and this is the first where he emerged as a personality. Unfortunately, it is also the last.
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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 featuring 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

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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