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The Daughter of Time Paperback – September 4, 2013
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By today's standards, it starts slowly, The main character, Recuperating from an injury received during a chase after a thug, Inspector Alan Grant is flat on his back throughout the novel. Two or three other characters drop in from time to time to bring him information that he needs to solve the crime. Which, by the way, occurred in the late 15th century. In short, the book has some of the characteristics that fiction-writing advisors tell aspiring authors never to do. The inciting incident is the gift of a picture of a long dead king, Richard the Third, for example.
So it's not a book for everyone, OK? Alan Grant becomes intrigued with the portrait, and decides to find out if Richard really did murder his two young nephews. For hundreds of years history has said he did it. (Or had it done.) But are the historians right?
I've loved this novel most of my reading life. Try it. If you're an aspiring writer, you'll learn something. If you like being challenged, you'll learn something about the way history becomes fact. And if you're a general reader of mysteries, this one is a gem.
Since that long ago time, I have read dozens of books about that period of history, especially during the past couple of years when it has been something of an obsession of mine. The result is that I'm now much better equipped to follow Tey's plot and the reasoning of her protagonist Inspector Alan Grant.
When I ran across a reference to her book recently, I was intrigued and decided it was time to read it again. I'm very glad that I did.
The plot of the book is that Inspector Alan Grant has been seriously injured in a fall while chasing a miscreant and is now bedridden in the hospital with a broken leg and injuries to his spine. He must lie flat on his back. He is extremely bored.
In order to divert him, his friends have been bringing him piles of books, but he can't get interested in them. One of his friends, an actress, knowing of his fascination with faces, brings him pictures of several historical figures who have mysteries attached to them. Most of the pictures do not pique his interest, but finally one of them does capture his imagination. It is a copy of the famous portrait of Richard III.
Grant knows little about Richard III except what he remembers from Shakespeare which is, basically, that he killed his two nephews, the "Princes in the Tower," and that he died on Bosworth Field calling for a horse, but, as a student of faces and one whose career depends on being able to read faces, he begins to doubt, while studying the portrait of Richard, that this man was a murderer. He determines to conduct an investigation, four hundred years after the fact, to determine the accuracy of the charges against the man.
His actress friend is delighted to have found something that will occupy Grant's mind and distract him from his predicament. What he needs is someone to do research for him and she happens to know just the person, a young American friend of hers who has an interest in history. Soon he is introduced to Brent Carradine and the two form an alliance and a working partnership in search of the truth.
The two pore over history books and historical accounts of events of the late 15th century, but they soon discover that the most famous accounts of the period - that of Sir Thomas More, for example - were not contemporaneous but were actually written later, during the Tudor period. Since the Tudors were mortal enemies of Richard, can their accounts really be trusted? Grant, the consummate detective, doesn't think so.
At length, the two investigators find that none of the reports that were actually written during the time of Richard's life refer to the death of the two princes and that there is evidence that the mother of the two remained in a friendly relationship with Richard and that her daughters continued to attend events at his court. None of that seems to be the action of a mother or a family who considered Richard to be the murderer of their sons and brothers. Grant and Carradine come to the conclusion that the princes were, in fact, still alive in the Tower throughout Richard's reign.
So, what happened to them? Were they killed, and, if so, who killed them?
Grant decides to follow the clues, as he would in any murder investigation, to try to uncover the culprit. The first question he asks is, who stood to gain from the princes' death?
It wouldn't have been Richard, since after his brother Edward IV's death, Parliament had declared his children with Elizabeth Woodville as illegitimate because there had been an earlier, undissolved marriage with another woman. But there were other children, those of his brother George, who stood ahead of Richard in line to become king, and yet those children continued to live and thrive.
After Richard's death, Henry VII, the first of the Tudors, rescinded all of that and made the Woodville children legitimate again because he wished to marry the oldest of them, the young Elizabeth. In short order, he also sent the children's mother (his mother-in-law) to a convent to live out her days. He also began to systematically rid the government and the aristocracy of the various Woodville relatives who had permeated it during the Yorkist reigns. No mention is made of the princes.
Grant forms the theory that it was Henry who caused the princes to be killed since, by the order of succession, the older one would have been legitimately seen as king and would have provided a rallying point for his enemies. He sent the princes' mother to a convent so that she would be out of the way and have no means of protesting. He then purged other members of the extensive family.
Tey, through Grant, lays out a very plausible case for her theory. She was not the only one who believed Richard innocent. Throughout the more than 450 years since Richard lived and died, there have been loyal groups in Britain who have continued to believe that he had been falsely maligned and to work to rehabilitate his reputation. Tey's book, which was published in 1951, influenced that movement and convinced many to join it. Such has been the far-reaching influence of this unique murder mystery.
This was a work of fiction, of course, and yet it offered a fascinating journey through English history. It also gives us a study of a high-minded obsession, as well, as Grant becomes thoroughly convinced of the falsity of the charge against the accused and he is determined to prove him innocent and bring the guilty to justice. It is, after all, what he does.
Some have noted the obvious relationship between this story and Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Since the movie came a few years after the publication of the popular book, it is possible that Hitchcock was influenced by it. Certainly, the obsession of a wheelchair-bound James Stewart with the activities of his neighbors that he is able to view from his window is comparable to the obsession of the bedridden Grant with the idea of balancing the scales of history.
Most likely we will never know with one hundred percent certainty what happened in the Tower of London long ago, but Josephine Tey through Alan Grant at least makes a strong argument for reasonable doubt about the guilt of Richard III and she makes us hungry to read more about that period. Yes, my obsession continues.
Sixty-four years have passed since the publication of this book, which has been voted number one among the top 100 British murder mysteries, and archaeology has added to Richard's story. A few years ago, his remains were found near Bosworth Field where he had been hastily buried after the battle. After excavation and confirmation of his identity, those remains were reburied with full honors and great ceremony at Leicester Cathedral, with the service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and royalty in attendance. Truth may be the daughter of time, but irony is its son.
Thus, dear readers, the story written by Josephine Tey will once again transport you to the England of yore, when a King died in a battle and was forever stamped into history as the original Wicked Uncle.
As mentioned in the summary, The Daughter of Time centers around a bedridden Scotland Yard Inspector, Alan Grant, who is recovering after breaking his leg due to falling down a trap door. He is a slightly cantankerous character, and being forced to remain in bed in hospital while he is an invalid, he desperately needs some sort of diversion from staring at the cracks in the ceiling. Before long, the story introduces Mr. Grant's friends and their attempts in brightening his spirits. Most have brought him books that he pointedly ignores, finding them to be exceedingly dull. Fear not, however; soon Ms. Tey brings into the narrative a seemingly innocuous bunch of "faces"; pictures of various people (both modern and historical), and suddenly The Daughter of Time draws you into a cleverly crafted tale about an Inspector who wants to know the truth about a man who is universally identified as a monster.
Ms. Tey has crafted a tale that, though fiction, does an amazing job at discussing the history of England without making you yearn for a drunken respite. The story is written in such a way that you truly want Mr. Grant to explore even deeper into the mystery surrounding Richard III, especially how he came to be the villain in a Shakespeare play. In the novel, it is a picture of a painting of Richard that begins his inquiry into the truth about his tale. Ms. Tey tells a tale that gradually follows Mr. Grant's investigation, from his first study of the picture of Richard to his pleas for more knowledge. In between Mr. Grant's interior dialogue, as well as conversations with the various people who aid him in his inquiry while he is bedridden, Ms. Tey sometimes journeys back to Richard's time, writing from the perspective of members of his family. Sometimes these brief interludes are a bit odd, but they do help to flesh out the life of Richard.
In terms of the narrative, most of it is told from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Mr. Grant. Ms. Tey masterfully introduces more and more snippets of clues into the story, starting with the tale that defines the reign of Richard: the disappearance of his nephews, the two Princes who were held in Tower of England after their father, Edward IV, died. Rather than villainizing Richard further, the story questions why Richard is so reviled, and from that simple play in devil's advocacy more clues, introduced as various papers and books that Mr. Grant references in the story, are revealed that go beyond the why of his hatred, and instead questions who. Who is Richard III? Why did a man who was unquestionably loyal to his much-beloved brother Edward IV suddenly covet the throne and abandon his promise to take care of his nephews?
If you would like to read a story that is like, but not entirely unlike, a modern detective mystery, then the writing style of Ms. Tey will appeal to you. Her turns of phrase and the dialogue between the characters very easily draws you in, even with the sometimes awkward juxtaposition of the historical first-person narration from members of Richard's family. To give any further detail would detract from the story, so I will not give explicit examples of her writing style. But believe me, if you enjoy a good mystery, especially one that discusses a dark tale from the past, this book is for you. Be warned! I have gone to bed and decided to read a bit only to find myself saying "one more chapter" as the clock moves past the 2AM mark! To say that this book is a page-turner is an understatement.
If you would like a book that weaves a mystery about a former King of England, masterfully introducing new clues as the protagonist discovers that maybe, just maybe, everything that we know about the evil Richard III is not true, then I recommend that you acquire a copy of The Daughter of Time today. You will gleefully turn each page, eagerly devouring the story to find out just what Mr. Grant discovers. Ms. Tey truly does draw you in and make you feel as though you are part of her fictional world, that you are a friend of Mr. Grant's who is visiting him in hospital while he recovers from his injury.
In short, if you ever wanted to know more about Richard III, the man who famously cried "My kingdom for a horse!" at the Battle of Bosworth, a man who ended up ignominiously buried under a parking lot in England, reviled by his fellow countrymen, then this is a book for you. While this book is definitely fiction, there are many facts about the life of the king, which may spur you to research him on your own. It is a shame that it took over 400 years for someone to grant humanity to a man who is universally recognized as a villain; but Ms. Tey is here to help you look at him in a different light, all without having to wade through history books at your local library. A definite must-have for any mystery enthusiast!
Most recent customer reviews
Should rewrite the history books!