Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard inspector, is laid up in the hospital and bored. A friend suggests he work on a historical mystery to keep him occupied. Grant chooses Richard III, whose portrait intrigues him. With the help of a young historian to do the legwork and a lot of books, Grant researches whether Richard III actually killed his two young nephews, the Princes in the Tower--and if he didn't kill them, who did?

The writing is old-fashioned but lively, the characters pleasant to spend time with. This book was first published in 1951 according to my 1988 edition. I actually like this kind of cerebral mystery, a subtype of cozy mystery that's pretty much nonexistent these days.

But I didn't like this book. I don't know a whole lot of British history, but I do know that Richard III has long been exonerated of his nephews' murders. Moreover, I got the strong feeling that Tey had several axes to grind and was more interested in setting the record straight about certain historical events than in writing a mystery.

So the book fails as a mystery, and since it isn't a scholarly work it also fails as a history. I don't know what details Tey invented for the purpose of her story and what details are real. I never could get invested in the plot, and the more Tey insisted on telling me I should think this way about these events, the more annoyed I became with her.

What I really want to read is The Man in the Queue, Tey's first novel, but I haven't been able to chase down a copy yet. This was a poor substitute.


T.L. Evans said...

Interesting, though to be fair to Tey, if it was written in 1958, then the general public didn't know that Richard III wasn't responsible for the death of the young Princes. Also, to be fair, he hasn't really been exonerated. He's still a likely candidate, but there are other theories.

K.C. Shaw said...

True, and I'm sure that to most of her readers the ideas were new and probably slightly scandalous. But I still didn't like it. :)