I wrote in a recent post about Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder, a modern murder mystery which mimicked the Golden Age - rather well - with the not always successful conceit of casting Josephine Tey as one of her characters. That reminded me that there were Tey murders I had not read, so courtesy of the London Library, I have just finished The Singing Sands from 1952.
I don't know what the phrase "singing sands" conveys to you, but I first came across it in an exhibition in the British Library about explorers of the Silk Road, as far as I recall, somewhere in central Asia. There was enough a smart button to press to hear a ghostly roaring or wailing noise, for added credibility. I note from the Internet that there are indeed "singing sands" in Kazakhstan, though whether the ones I came across were those or not, I can't tell. But this book is talking about singing sands in two very different parts of the world - Scotland and Arabia. In fact, although the redoubtable Inspector Grant follows up this and other folksy clues very thoroughly, his first cast proves to be a massive red herring, and the eponymous arenaceous songsters are in fact not very important at all!
The story starts when Inspector Grant, who has had a nervous breakdown and is suffering from severe claustrophobia, finds a man called Bill Kenrick dead in a sleeping compartment of the train they were both taking to Scotland. Grant was off to go fishing with old friends Tommy and Laura (and Laura is an ex-love of his) to recover. There is much Scottish scenery, lots of questions which turn out to be dead ends, and a fair smattering of coincidence and melodrama, which all leads Grant to recovery and the trail of a murderer.
Although the story is set largely in Scotland, it turns out that Scotland has nothing to do with it - all hinges on a remarkable archaeological discovery in Arabia. Along the way, Grant meets a friend of Laura's, Zoe, for whom he feels an immediate attraction. But the murder has "saved him from falling in love with Zoe Kentallen - a final service foe which he (the murdered man) had not had credit"! Sad sap.
If this all sounds a bit thin and a bit self indulgent, well it is. But it's entertaining enough, and you can forgive any book which is largely set in God's own country, and is full of descriptions of the mighty landscape of river, moor, and island. And there are some pretty good lines, although some of them are more impressive than accurate, like this one: "There is no keeping to oneself in England, as far class goes. It can't be done."