In her newly commissioned introduction, the critically 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.
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 …
|Illustrations © Mark Smith 2014|
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