The Daughter of Time
by Josephine Tey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Detective Alan Grant is recovering from a broken leg in the hospital, and he's bored. A friend brings him some portraits of historical figures, and Grant is struck by a portrait of Richard III. His policeman's knack for judging faces leaves him with a nagging sense that the man in the picture is not a murderer, whatever the history books say that Richard III did to his two young nephews. So Grant, with the help of a young American history student, begins a quest to prove Richard III innocent of murder and determine what really happened to the Princes in the Tower. All without leaving his hospital bed.
What follows is a really delightful historical mystery. I don't really know enough history to catch Tey out in any errors, but she builds a plausible case Richard's innocence. (I'm not quite as convinced by her alternative suspect, but it makes for a compelling kind of conspiracy theory logic, at least.) There are a couple of places where I find her interpretation of events dubious. For example, Grant makes a big deal of Elizabeth Woodville's coming out of sanctuary, accepting a pension from Richard III, and encouraging her surviving children to return to court. Grant posits that no mother would be so chummy with the murderer of her sons, but surely the history of the English royals at this point is full of examples of people reconciling (if only for pragmatic reasons) with people who had done away with their nearest and dearest?
Quibbles aside, though, this book will most likely make you a Rickardian at least for the time you're reading it. And it's short enough, and wittily written enough, that you're likely to breeze through it in a sitting or two.
I think this is a must-read if you're at all interested in Richard III, or a fan of Golden Age British mystery writers (especially Dorothy Sayers). If you're not, read it anyway...it might just seduce you to the dark side. View all my reviews >>