The Daughter of Time was the last book written by Josephine Tey and was published in 1952. It was voted one of the best 100 detective novels of all time by The British Crime Writers Association in 1990
The book features a police inspector, Alan Grant, who is lying in hospital with a broken leg. In order to lessen his boredom he decides to investigate whether Richard III did in fact have his two nephews, known as “the princes in the tower”, murdered as the history books maintain. He is helped in his research by a young American, Brent Carradine. The impetus for Grant’s research is a picture of Richard III and he asks various people what the portrait tells them about the king’s character. They all have different opinions including his sergeant who thinks he looks more like a judge than a criminal.
The novel shows how history can be interpreted in different ways at different times. It also demonstrates how powerful people, in this case the Tudors, can influence what people are told about events and how an individual's character can be blackened. It explores different styles of historical writing starting with school books. Carradine helps Grant in researching what contemporary people wrote about what was happening in England at that time. The conclusion reached by Grant is that Richard III was not responsible for the murders of his two nephews but that they were later killed by Henry.
I did enjoy this book although I do not have an historical background and am unfamiliar with this period of English history having been educated in Scotland. The book was well written and I liked the main characters. The relationship between Grant and Carradine developed during the novel and I felt that Carradine matured and, encouraged by Grant, was able to find his role in life, deciding to write a book.
I would have liked to have seen references for the books used by Grant to develop his argument although Wikipedia suggests that two of these books were fictional having been invented by the author.
This novel certainly emphasises the importance of not taking everything that is written at face value but in understanding who the author was, when they lived, their background and their motives in writing what they did. This is as important today in this age of “fake news” as when reading historical documents.
I would like to finish by quoting a discussion from chapter 3 in the book when Grant asks one of his nurses who said the princes were smothered how she knew this and she answered “My history book at school said it.”
“Yes, but whom was the history book quoting?” asks Grant.
“Quoting? It wasn’t quoting anything. It was just giving facts.”
If you want to find out more about Richard the Third the Richard III Society can be found here.