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History Is Written By The Victors!
on April 26, 2004
Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is bored out of his mind. Due to an unfortunate fall and multiple injuries he is bed ridden in the hospital and the long healing process and subsequent inaction are driving him crazy. A friend, knowing of the Inspector's passion for faces, brings him a portfolio of historical portraits thinking to distract him. She hopes he will involve himself in solving a "classic" historical mystery, since he seems to know all the facts of the Scotland Yard cases by heart. Grant homes in on the portrait of King Richard III, the supposedly wicked uncle who murdered his nephews, the boy princes, in the London's Tower. He remembers how Richard was portrayed in elementary school history and certainly recalls Shakespeare's vivid portrait of the evil hunchbacked king. However, try as he may, Grant cannot reconcile the face in the painting with that of a tyrannical childrens' murderer and usurper of England's throne. He sees conscience and integrity in the face of the painting's subject. And his curiousity is aroused for the first time since his accident.
Grant asks for historical books and reads everything he can get his hands on. He finally comes into contact with a young research student from America who also becomes caught-up in the hypothesis that Richard III was framed. Author Josephine Tey, with the skill of the best in Scotland Yard, conducts an objective investigation of a centuries-old crime. She evenly portrays both side of the story, Richard III's and King Henry VII's (the other suspect), with all its twists and turns, reveals compelling evidence and comes to an amazing conclusion.
The reader is literally taken back in time to examine the accusations, testimonies and material relating to the death of Richard's brother, King Edward IV in 1483, the known history of his sons, Princes Edward and Richard after their father's death and their mysterious disappearance, the behavior of Edward's widow and children, including his eldest daughter Elizabeth, who becomes Henry's bride, Queen and mother to Henry VIII. Tey provides an extraordinarily well researched profile of Richard III, pieced together directly from historical documents, and another profile of Henry Tudor. The author also examines the 1934 exhumation of the two children who were first dug up in 1674. Motives are examined and finally, conclusions are drawn, proving, once again, that history is written by winners.
This is a riveting piece of detective history. Usually historians are detectives. In this case we are introduced to a detective who becomes a historian. Step-by-step, Grant plays out his theories according to evidence and comes up with logical deductions. One may already know what the conclusions are, but that is not the point of this mystery novel. The book provides the opportunity to go back in history and view a more three-dimensional side to well known characters, examine documents, and understand the rationale of those who lied or who closed their eyes to the truth. In this case, a mistrust of the official version of "the truth" brings the truth to light.
Alan Grant and the supporting cast of characters are wonderful, as is the witty dialogue. The young American, Brent Carradine, is hardworking and touching in his zeal to do something meaningful. This excellent mystery by Josephine Tey is a delight and a remarkably riveting read.