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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 November 2011
Inspector Grant meets the disconcertingly beautiful Leslie Searle at a theatrical party - and when the young man later goes missing, Grant is called in to investigate.

I love Tey's books for their elegant writing, sharp wit, and great characterisation. The mysteries vary, some being more transparent than others, and I have to admit that I'd solved this one ahead of Grant. But that doesn't really matter because the solution is so interesting in its own right, and because the books don't simply rely on plot, like so many modern stories.

The relationship between Grant and Marta becomes very intriguing here, and is a nice counterpoint to that between Leslie himself and Liz Garrowby. The minor characters are beautifully delineated too, especially the `earthy' working class writer with all his money stashed away while he lives in a hovel, and the temperamental Russian dancer...

If you enjoy authentic `golden age' mysteries (Christie, Sayers, Marsh) then this is an excellent choice.
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on 26 August 1998
Tey is a brilliant writer of character studies, with her strength lying in her portrayals of younger women and girls. Unlike her later mysteries though, "Candles" has one of the weakest endings in the entire genre of mystery writing. Still, the characters are so brilliantly drawn, it is just plain fun to read about them. After the first five chapters, the mystery becomes immaterial though. For stronger mystery writing, Tey's 'Brat Farrar' or 'Daughter of Time' would be the ones to read. 'A Shilling for Candles' would come at the bottom of the Tey listing, I'm afraid.
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on 6 June 2011
This is Josephine Tey at her best. The action revolves around the disappearance of Leslie Searle a good looking young American photographer. Following a chance meeting at a party Searle is invited to stay in Salcott a village with an artists colony. He and Walter Whitmore a radio commentator set off on a canoe trip on the local river. Halfway through the trip Searle disappears without trace.

Inspector Alan Grant of Sctland Yard arrives to investigate. It is not unfamiliar territory for him as he has already met Searle briefly and Marta Hallard, an actress friend, has a house in the village. The theories surrounding Searle's disappearance are numerous. Did he drown accidentally, had he been murdered or kidnapped, or had he just disappeared of his own free will? Murder suspects are many. Grant eventually solves the case using considerable intuition as well as his detective skills. I enjoyed this book as much for the characters and setting as for the plot though the twist at the end is excellent. As always with Tey there is great elegance in the construction and writing of the novel.
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on 28 August 2011
A body found dead on a Kent beach turns out to be that of a famous actress Christine Clay. At first it is assumed to be a tragic accident or even suicide. However, a button twisted in her hair leads to suspicion of murder and Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate.

There are plenty of suspects including Robert Tisdall, a homeless young man, who had been staying with Christine at a cottage near the beach. He had recently squandered a fortune and taking pity on his situation Christine had offered him accommodation. However, when he is named as a beneficiary in her will, he goes to the top of Grant's suspect list. Other suspects include the victim's brother and her titled husband.

As ever with Tey there are plenty of interesting characters including an astrologer and the actress Marta Hallard who appears in other Tey books. A most delightful character is Erica Burgoyne the local Chief Constable's 17 year old daughter who plays a part in identifying the coat from which the button came.

The action moves at a good pace and there are many twists and turns. The identity of the murderer certainly surprised me and Tey is on top form with this mystery.
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on 28 May 2006
"The last legacy of all read, 'To my brother Herbert, a shilling for candles.'"

- from the last will and testament of Christine Clay, herein

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'. (Her background, gradually uncovered by police investigation, is enough to support a story in itself.) 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?

Grant carries part of the story's action during his investigation, but Tey isn't shackled to a stylistic formula. Erica, the local Chief Constable's 16-year-old daughter, wades in where angels fear to tread, and generally assists Robin Tisdall, one of the chief suspects, to stay out of police custody while the police try to find out how Christine died. (This last provides an excuse for several mildly entertaining bit-part characters to appear, so I can live with it in the name of entertainment.)

A few too many plots getting in the way of the story, and could've used better editing to work as a book. I think it works better as a performance on the audio edition than it does on the page. As always when Stephen Thorne is the reader, the audio edition is performed well.

Elizabeth Mackintosh ("Josephine Tey" was a pseudonym) was primarily a playwright; she only produced 8 mystery novels altogether, 7 featuring Grant. Incidentally, she used yet another pseudonym, "Gordon Daviot", as both a playwright and for the original publication of many of her books. A SHILLING FOR CANDLES (1936) was Mackintosh's 2nd mystery novel, with an emphasis on 'novel' rather than 'who done it?' Tey isn't particularly interested in playing fair with the reader here, but I personally can live with that since the book works as a story. (I've taken off points for it, and for some issues with the story construction, but on the whole it's enjoyable, so the audio edition is worth having.)
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on 20 May 2008
Fortyish Miss Pym has written a popular psychology book and is invited to lecture at a women's physical training college run by her old school friend. She stays for a couple of weeks as an honorary staff member and becomes involved in the lives of the students. Then an unpopular girl is found fatally injured... The "closed community" background makes this more of a novel than a mystery. One of Tey's best, and based on her experience in institutions and the theatre.
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on 5 July 2011
Josephine Tey is a wonderful writer. A sharp, clear and intelligent style.
She introduces Miss Pym in a few pages, but we feel we have always known her. Set in the 1940's, a middle aged and overlooked spinster becomes famous by writing a book.
She is invited by an old and much admired friend to lecture to the students at a college of physical training. She becomes involved in the life of the college and in a totally unexpected crime. She solves the mystery but there is a moral dilemma.
I was most struck by the way the students are treated- they are late teens early twenties, but are seen as children by their teachers.
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on 31 January 2016
Josephine Tey's ability to spin a great yarn is vindicated again here in this great story, that is held together by who owns a lost button. I love Inspector Grant mysteries and wish there were more, he is such a great character.
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on 20 July 2008
An odd book but strangely fascinating. Tey creates a murder mystery set in the long lost world of girls' Physical Ed. colleges and introduces us to an array of 'types': the rich and sociable, the ambitious, and the oddball, like the bizarrely nick-named, flamenco dancing 'Nut Tart'.

The staff too are an arrestingly odd and old fashioned lot. Miss Pym, a self-taught psychologist, finds herself captivated by the atmosphere and energy of the school and drawn into its life and events. For me the atmosphere was the interesting part, a world where girls, even rich ones, were beginning to become independent and work, but still harking back to days of a more formal and restricted activities for young women. Miss Pym has a moral choice to make and whether you feel she makes the right one is up to you. I don't want to spoil the ending but it is extraordinarily idiosyncratic....morally questionable even.
If you have ever attended an all girls' boarding school yourself you will find yourself reminded of sights and sounds of communal life that you thought you had long ago forgotten.
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on 9 May 2014
I read all of Josephine Tey's books many years ago , and on an impulse decided to try one again just to see how it stacked up with more modern crime stories. To my pleasure I found it was still a very good read and enjoyed it very much shall certainly be ordering some more in the near future. The purchasing from this site was very satisfactory and will certainly use them again.
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