Josephine Tey takes the murder of the Princes in the Tower as her text, and in a completely convincing exercise of revisionist history exonerates Richard III, the man history has judged guilty of the crime. This review echoes my thoughts more eloquently than anything I could write.
“To this day, The Daughter of Time remains the finest crime novel I have ever read, and one of the finest novels of any kind. In it, a policeman is confined to a hospital bed, literally unable to sit upright, and from that bed he solves a double homicide committed four hundred years before. The crime scene is sixteen generations out of date, there is no surviving forensic evidence, and the chroniclers of the time only prospered through patronage, which could and did influence their reporting. And yet, Tey’s hero prevails, and this in spite of the fact that he spends the entire first paragraph staring at the ceiling. Yes, really, and in this era of kiss kiss bang bang yet another reason to marvel at the craft of this novel. The plot is above reproach, perfectly paced and sustaining of tension throughout, an extraordinary accomplishment when you realize that the facts of the case have been known for over four centuries. Tey takes the murder of the Princes in the Tower as her text, and in a completely convincing exercise of revisionist history exonerates Richard III, the man history has judged guilty of the crime. The characterization is phenomenal, from that intelligent, charming protagonist, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, to the much-maligned Richard III himself. The cast of secondary characters is equally appealing. There is elegant actress Marta Hallard with “her best lower-register Electra voice;” Marta’s “woolly lamb” Brent Carradine who “said goodnight in a quiet smothered way, and ambled out of the room followed by the sweeping skirts of his topcoat;” Sergeant Williams, “large and pink and scrubbed-looking.” How can you not want to read more about Mrs. Tinker, whose “homely face appeared in the aperture surmounted by her still more homely and historic hat?” And then there are the dead-on and frequently devastating sidelights that have nothing to do with plot and everything to do with condition and culture, as in Marta’s report of her fellow actor’s “disappearance” from a play in the middle of its performance, or how about this description of the pile of books Grant’s friends have brought him in hospital: …the public talked about ‘a new Silas Weekly’ or ‘a new Lavinia Fitch’ exactly as they talked about ‘a new brick’ or ‘a new hairbrush.’…Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like. Ouch. After that, I won’t even mention Tey’s character assassinations of Mary, Queen of Scots and the sainted Sir Thomas More. Reading The Daughter of Time was my epiphany. In that moment, I realized you could do anything in crime fiction, so long as a) there was a mystery, and b) by the end of the book that mystery was solved.”
Dana Stabenow Novelist
The Daughter of Time was voted greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990.