Can you solve a mystery five hundred years after the murder? Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time makes a convincing argument that you can.
Tey, who died in 1952, was part of the Golden Age of British women mystery writers. She ranks with Agatha Christie, although unlike Christie, readers have largely forgotten Tey these days.
Yet the mystery world hasn’t forgotten this book. In 1990, the British Crime Writers’ Association voted The Daughter of Time number one in their list of The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. In 1995, the Mystery Writers of America voted The Daughter of Time number four in The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time.
I wanted to see what I thought. What I wanted was entertainment, but what I got was something much more valuable. The books is a reminder of the importance of thinking critically for one’s self, no matter what “experts” say.
When I was writing a novel about a strong ancient Roman woman, I found that ancient historians heaped insults on her, and shockingly these insults were repeated and taken for truth by academics today. It didn’t make sense to me, and I discovered that those academics who take the historical record as verbatim should be viewed with skepticism.
Inspector Alan Grant of the Scotland Yard comes to the same conclusion in The Daughter of Time.
Alan is stuck in the hospital. He’s bored out of his mind. A friend, who knows he loves analyzing faces, visits him and brings a collection of portrait prints painted by Old Masters. One of them arrests his attention: Richard III.
The facts I know about the history of the British royal family can fit on one hand, but I do remember that Richard III is supposed to have murdered his nephews.
To Alan, Richard III’s face is not one of a murderer. Alan starts to investigate, but he has the use the meager resources available to him in the hospital: a nurse’s school history texts and observations of the medical people who stop by to check on him. Finally, the friend sends him a young researcher working at the British Museum to do actual research for Alan.
Alan puzzles over what normal people would really do. For example, if Richard III really killed his young nephews, does it make sense that the boys’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, would come out of sanctuary after murders and accept a pension from Richard III? Yet historians repeat that part of the story.
By the end of the book, Alan’s amazing puzzling indicates that Richard III was innocent and that someone else had a strong motivation for killing the young boys. (I won’t give away the spoiler, but the conclusion sure sounds right to me.)
If you’re a fanatic of the British royals, this book is for you. More importantly, if you like to think for yourself (and who doesn’t?), this book is for you. This mystery is a fascinating reminder that everyone must think critically to form their own conclusions.
Want to chat about The Daughter of Time? Let’s connect on Facebook!
Like the Book or Mysteries in General? Want to Enter my Drawing for Free Books? Join My Book Club!
This book will be included in my upcoming book club drawing. If you’re on my email list, you are automatically entered into the book club drawings. If you’re not, click here to sign up, and if you know anyone else who’d love to join the book club, please share the link with them too (thank you!).
Till next time,