I first read Josephine Tey’s mystery, The Daughter of Time, in 1991–soon after I first read and saw Shakespeare’s Richard III. Tey’s novel is a perfect companion–or counterpoint–to the play.
So last week, after watching the excellent Hollow Crown production of Richard III (which I reviewed here), I decided–though there are precious few books I am willing to reread–to revisit The Daughter of Time. Boy, am I glad I did.
Shakespeare’s Richard is the most familiar today, because–well, it’s Shakespeare. And that Richard was the most familiar in Shakespeare’s day because Queen Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Henry VII, who defeated Richard at Bosworth . . . and the winners write the history books. So we know that Richard was a monster who killed his brother, his wife, and of course the poor princes in the Tower, and a tyrant who deserved to die afoot, crying, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse.”
But Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, who is laid up in hospital following an accident, is inspired by the famous anonymous portrait of Richard III to conduct a fascinating historical investigation from his hospital bed. He partners with a young American researcher and together they discover that many of the well-known “facts” aren’t facts at all. Who was Richard, really? How and when did the princes die? Who stood to gain from their deaths? Is there a credible case against Richard–or someone else?
The Daughter of Time is a thoroughly entertaining and unorthodox mystery. It is a masterpiece of storytelling–as Shakespeare’s play is great theater. It will reward anyone who reads it, but especially anyone who has read or seen Shakespeare’s Richard III.