OVER half a century after its first publication, the final novel from much admired Inverness-born crime writer Josephine Tey is getting a new lease of life with a new illustrated edition from the Folio Society.
Josephine Tey is the best known pseudonym used by novelist and playwright Elizabeth Mackintosh, whose crime writing career stretched from the 1920s to the 1950s.
One of her early novels was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock while a later book, The Daughter of Time, was named the greatest ever crime novel by Britain’s Crime Writers Association in 1990.
More recently she has become a crime fiction character herself as the central character in a series of novels by English writer Nicola Upson.
The Folio Society, which for 65 years has been producing uniquely illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books, has now released a new edition of Tey’s The Singing Sands, the final Tey novel published after her death in 1952. The new hardback features stylish illustrations from Mark Smith, one of which appears on the cover, which is bound in red buckram.
Unusually for Tey/Mackintosh, her home town makes an appearance in the novel when a dead body is discovered on a train after it pulls into Inverness station and threatens to disrupt the Highland fishing holiday of Tey’s regular hero Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard.
The Folio Society edition comes with a foreword from today’s most successful female Scottish crime writer, Fife’s Val McDermid.
McDermid, creator of television’s Wire in The Blood, states that if contemporary crime writers were allowed to have a single new novel from a dead author, rather than Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle, they would pick "a reclusive Scottish spinster who wrote only a handful of novels" above all others: Josephine Tey.
"She left the genre in a different place from where she found it and she cracked open a series of doors for others to walk through," McDermid writes, calling her a bridge between the Golden Age crime novels of Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers and contemporary crime fiction.
"Without Tey cracking open the door, I don’t know how easy it would have been for writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell to have begun their own explorations of the darker side of human identity and sexuality.
"I know myself that reading Tey for the first time was like taking a lungful of pure air. I realised that crime fiction could be so much more than the bloodless entertainment I’d been enjoying up to that point.
"And her work helped me to understand that I could write books that dealt with serious aspects of human behaviour within the confines of genre fiction."
And McDermid has not quite abandoned hope of another final novel from Tey’s pen: "In my dreams I imagine someone buying an old desk in a Highland auction room.
"And in that desk, a secret drawer, and in that drawer, an undiscovered Josephine Tey."
• The Folio Society edition of The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey, introduced by Val McDermid and illustrated by Mark Smith, is available from www.foliosociety.com or Tel: 0207 400 4200