More crime, but much more charming. This is one of the books my husband has brought home after hearing about it on Radio 4. He never reads them, but thinks I might like them, and I love him and think it’s the most romantic thing ever.
I had never heard about Josephine Tey before, and I don’t know if that’s strange. She died in 1952, so her novels qualify as classics, and, as wikipedia has just told me, The Daughter of Time was voted greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990. I had no idea, and it makes me smile, because there is nothing particularly suspenseful or spooky about it. It’s just… charming. I have a feeling I’m going to use this word a lot in this review.
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is in hospital with a broken leg, and in order not to go mad, he asks his friends to supply him with mysteries to solve. He ends up with reproductions of portraits of famous people, and is fascinated by the one of Richard III, a famously deceitful, murderous brute of a King, whose face, according to Grant, shows nothing but gentleness and suffering. With the help of a researcher at the British museum, Inspector Grant sets out to solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, the young nephews Richard III is said to have killed.
All I know about British history is puzzled together from bits I have read in novels or seen in movies, and this particular episode was mostly unknown to me. For a British reader in 1952, it would have been one of the best-known bits of historical knowledge, I guess, which makes the novel exciting from the start. As it turns out, it’s a joy to read, and quite easy to follow even for the uninitiated (me). It’s a straightforward mystery, with new and astounding facts delivered to Grant’s hospital bed every day, and moving along at a steady pace. Grant is charming (there!), the minor characters are lovely (even better!), and even Richard III turns out to be a good man. Everything about this book made me feel warm and fuzzy; its old-fashionedness (The time it takes to find facts! Old school books have to be ordered or rummaged for in the nurses’ bookshelves, volumes leafed through in the British Museum, telegrammes waited for in hospital… Ah.), the goodwill and friendliness of the characters, the fact that the most recent bloodshed happened in the 15th century… This is a comfort read. The entire Josephine Tey boxset immediately went onto my Christmas wish list. I’ll be the happiest reader for the next few weeks.