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 and the identity of the deceased. Grant needs just this sort of casual inquiry to quiet his jangling nerves, despite his doctor’s orders. But what begins as a leisurely pastime eventually turns into a full-blown investigation that leads Grant to discover not only the key to the poem but the truth about a most diabolical murder.
From my book group, via my TBR shelf. Due to her need for privacy, Tey is not an author (and this not a book) with a heavy internet presence. This is the sixth, and last book in the Grant series.
There is a slight spoiler later in this review, so please bear in mind when reading further.
Having taken sick leave from Scotland Yard for his “nerves” (what would be called stress and anxiety disorder now), Grant travels to Scotland to visit his cousin Laura and her family, and get in some fishing. He is struggling with insomnia and claustrophobia, leading to panic attacks and a desperate need to get outside.
On his way off the train, the carriage porter tries to rouse one of the other passengers, only for Grant to point out he’s dead. Doing his best to keep out of it – helped by an unsympathetic superior, the wide openness of the Scottish Lowlands, and the time and silence he needs to relax – it’s weeks and some travelling around for Grant to get a handle on who the dead man is, and the significance of the poetry found in the train cabin.
Meanwhile a new visitor in the shape of Lady Zoe, peaks his interest, and he begins to wonder whether he should retire whilst he has the chance to “love and be loved”. Grant is unable to leave the death be, especially after meeting the dead man’s best friend Tad. He therefore returns to London and works through the issue via unofficial channels.
This is a very internally driven novel – there is a lot of soul searching and working through issues by Grant, with plenty of dialogue between himself and his subconscious.
The final denouement was a little disappointing in that Grant doesnt really identify the murderer – he has taken a dislike to a certain individual and has a suspicion, but nothing to prove it. The reveal comes late in the story after an announcement in the paper, and when the murderer has slipped out of his hands (and his vanity believes that he has died having committed the perfect murder).
Some additional posts that might be of interest:
A Gold of Fish’s review of the same book
My review of To Love and Be Wise by the same Author