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wshaffer
Review: Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey 
10th-May-2010 12:29 pm
mini-me

The Daughter of Time 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.


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Comments 
10th-May-2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
Daughter of Time inspired me to do much further reading (on the fiction side, I highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman's _The Sunne in Splendour_) on Richard III. I think the major flaw in her theory is simply the reality that the Princes aren't seen in public after that first summer, which makes it hard to believe they last the whole reign of RIII. I don't think Richard himself did it, for many of the same reasons that she mentions, but I don't think her alternatives are plausible. And yes, I think Elizabeth Woodville was a very pragmatic woman.
10th-May-2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
Seconded, The Sunne in Splendour. Definitely.
10th-May-2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
All of Tey's are wonderful, and Sayers'....

Why am I reading LJ?
11th-May-2010 04:36 am (UTC)
I raise a skeptical eyebrow at the notion of judging someone's character by a medieval portrait . . . but other than that, this sounds fascinating. :-)

(Even if I semi-blamed Richard in a story I haven't sold yet.)
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