The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Although a little dated, The Daughter of Time is a great little book. Fictional detective Alan Grant goes in search of the murderer of the Princes in the Tower. It's nicely written, it's interesting and it has an admirable distrust of the establishment. It's historically accurate and it comes down, as far as Bookbag is concerned anyway, on the right side of the matter. The Daughter of Time is highly recommended for an informative and entertaining light read and also for younger readers beginning to make the leap into adult fiction.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: March 2002
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 0099430967

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I was looking on the shelf for Alison Weir's The Princes In The Tower, when The Daughter Of Time caught my eye...

Scotland Yard's Alan Grant is laid up in hospital with a broken leg. He's bored out of his tiny mind. There are no mysteries to solve on the ceiling of his room which is all he has to look at until a sympathetic friend arrives with a sheaf of pictures. One, a portrait of a man, strikes him as a mysterious, but sympathetic character. To his surprise, he discovers it's the famous portrait of Richard III, child-murderer and usurper of the English throne. Grant is an experienced detective, a man who prides himself on his ability to judge a man's character simply by looking at his face. He sees no guilt in the portrait and, with the aid of a young American researcher, determines to prove "chummy's" innocence.

And the result is a fascinating little book.

There are books of historical fiction. There are murder-mystery novels. There are even, horrid little sub-genres of historical murder-mystery novels regrettably spawned by the excellent Name of the Rose. The Daughter of Time isn't really any of these things. It's set in the twentieth century, and its history is described not as fiction but as reportage of contemporary sources. It's a detective novel, but we already know whodunit or rather, whodidntdunit. So what we're left with is a set of fictional characters set upon analysing the evidence to prove a theory. Ask any historian, and they'll tell you their job is, for the most part, detection. So, instead of Sherlock Holmes' cryptic remarks and dramatic final-page denouement speech, we get Alan Grant's painstaking logical deductions right from the start. And it really is fascinating.

It's an easy book to read; Tey's style is admirably short in effulgence and admirably full of terseness and wit. The Daughter in Time would appeal, I should think, to any reader of detective fiction together with anyone at all interested in this period of English history. I read it as a child aged about ten, and I think it would certainly appeal to any younger person of that age or above who has an interest in the past, and many do. One of the things I like most about The Daughter in Time is that there's a little touch of the Animal Farm about it - I do like to see anything which - for all the right reasons - asks us whether or not we can always trust the "official" version of the truth. Stodgy, reactionary historians, teachers, school textbooks, even the beatified Thomas More, all get a very-probably justified slating from Tey's Grant. And a good thing that is too!

Reading The Daughter in Time after so many years, I must admit to finding it slightly irritating in places. I'm not a fan of the "posh policemen" found in books by people such as P D James and Ngaio Marsh. They get on my nerves. Are there any posh, cultured, socialite detectives at Scotland Yard? Do any of them write poetry or hobnob with the nation's stage luvvies? Somehow, I doubt it. Such characters always seem to me to belong to a country of fantasy. Was England ever full of gentlemen coppers, even in the thirties? Somehow, again, I doubt it. I don't want to read about "posh policemen". I want to read about real ones. Posh policemen are, to me, little more than irritating anachronisms. And there is more than a touch of the posh policeman about Alan Grant. He does insist on saying things like "chummy". If Adam Dalgleish irritates you, then I think Alan Grant would too.

However, this is a nit-pick. The Daughter of Time is a jolly interesting, jolly entertaining little book. Never dull, it really does bring a long-dead panoply of characters to life. The history is genuine, the analysis of it is wonderfully interesting, and if we have to put up with one-dimensional characters whilst reading, it really isn't the end of the world. For an afternoon's entertainment, and one that might excite your interest to further reading on one of history's best-known controversies, I heartily recommend it.

Alison Weir, by the way, begs to differ with Alan Grant. You'll have to read both books, and make up your own mind!

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