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Posts Tagged ‘Richard III’

THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey: Book Review

Josephine Tey is an author who is not too familiar to American readers of crime novels. She was 56 when she died in 1952 and had written only a handful of novels, but every one of them is worth reading or, in my case, re-reading.

Elizabeth Macintosh, Tey’s real name, used an “old proverb” that can’t be found anywhere, according to a review of Tey’s works in the Washington Post, for the title of this book.   “Truth is the daughter of time” is the saying, and I must admit I’m not sure exactly what it means.  Perhaps it means that “truth will tell,” which would certainly fit with the novel’s story.

Alan Grant, the British police detective who is the hero in several of Ms. Tey’s novels, is, as the English say, “in hospital” with a broken leg. Cranky and bored, he welcomes an old friend, Marta Hallard, a well-known stage actress, who brings him a pile of posters from the British Museum.   Each one is a portrait of a murderer or evil-doer.  In that pile is a portrait of a man whom Grant believes doesn’t belong there, and Grant is famous at Scotland Yard for his ability to “pick them at sight.”  The portrait is of Richard The Third, infamous king of England, best known for killing his two nephews in the Tower of London to preclude any claims they might have to be king.

The more Grant looks at the portrait, the more he is certain that the man with the sensitive face could not be the monster that English history says he is.  So obsessed does he become with this portrait that Marta brings a young American friend of hers, Brent Carradine, to do a bit of research for him to find out more about the king.  And the more deeply Grant and Carradine get into it, the more certain they both become that “history is bunk” and that Richard had no reason to kill his nephews and didn’t do it.

There’s a great deal of history in this book that apparently is known to the English but totally unknown to most Americans.  Names such as Eleanor Neville, the Cat and the Rat, and Lord Morton of “Morton’s Fork,” for example, are seemingly as well known in that country at Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross would be to students of American history.  But Tey explains her country’s history beautifully, and what might in other hands have become a dry treatise is instead a wonderful look into kings, queens, and court villains.

Fighting the battle at Bosworth in 1485 between the Yorks (Richard’s family) and the Lancastrians (followers of Henry Tudor, soon to become the first Tudor king), Richard was defeated and killed.  How amazing is it that Tey brings not only Richard but all of the members of his family and his court to life more than 500 years after his death?

Unfortunately, Josephine Tey doesn’t appear to have a web page, but you can read about her at