The Daughter of Time


Josephine Tey


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

May 22, 2021

read The Daughter of Time because it was voted #1 on the 1990 list of The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time by the British-based Crime Writers' Association. I am amazed at the lofty ranking, I believe I am being generous by awarding this book a 3 star rating. The Daughter of Time is the fifth book in Josephine Tey's series featuring Alan Grant, an inspector for Scotland Yard. I won't be reading any more of the series.

The book's title, The Daughter of Time, is explained by an Old Proverb that appears on page 1: "Truth is the Daughter of Time". The novel does not, alas, feature any time travel back to medieval England to visit the court of King Richard III. In fact, the entire novel is set entirely in a hospital room where Inspector Grant lies in a bed, healing from a broken leg suffered when he fell through a trap door in pursuit of a criminal. Grant is bored and staring at the ceiling of his hospital room, but not bored enough to read the popular novels brought to him by his well-wishers. Grant amuses himself by giving nicknames to his attending nurses - the short primary nurse is The Midget, while the after-hours nurse is The Amazon. Thus does the inspector categorize these women; based entirely upon their physical characteristics. Eventually, a friend drops by with a series of portraits of people involved in historical mysteries. One of these portraits is a painting of King Richard III. King Richard III is famous for having ordered the slaying of the two young sons of his brother, Edward IV. Richard is supposed to have had the two lads murdered to ensure his rule would not be challenged when the two boys came of age. This tragedy is known as the Princes of the Tower (because the boys disappeared when they were staying at the Tower of London). From studying the artwork, Grant concludes that the visage of the king does not depict a murderer, but rather an honorable man. Based upon a painting of King Richard III, Grant decides to investigate if the murder of the two princes is not actually Richard's fault.

Thank goodness Inspector Grant is a fictional detective. It would be chilling to hear of a real inspector who based his determination of guilt or innocence by looking at the accused person's appearance. I am not a handsome man; should I be accused of a crime and Inspector Grant was assigned to my case, I would certainly be judged guilty. After spending a few chapters outlining why King Richard III doesn't look like man who could order the deaths of his two nephews, Grant enlists the aid of an enthusiastic American researcher named Brent Carradine. Brent goes hunting through documents at the B.M. (The British Museum) to find details that support the theory that King Richard III is innocent. Each chapter, Brent comes back with new data, and Grant and Brent debate the implications of his findings.

Given Richard's appearance in his portrait, it is no surprise that Grant finds evidence that he thinks points to the murder of the princes best serving the interests of Henry VII, who succeeded Richard III after defeating him at the Battle of Bosworth. The main evidence in favor of Richard appears to be a lack of any contemporary references to the deaths of the missing princes. But alas, there is also apparently no contemporary sources that mention the presence of the heirs to the throne either. In the end, Grant decides that his opinion is correct, and all the history books are nothing but a bunch of "TonyPandy" - which apparently is a British phrase that means "a bunch of bunkum".

The analysis in favor of King Richard III is actually persuasive. Maybe this material would be best presented as an essay. Alas, at the end of the novel, we learn that Josphine Tey is not the first to argue in favor of King Richard's innocence. In fact, someone named Buck made the same case in the seventeenth century, Horace Walpole made the same argument in the eighteenth century, as did Markham in the nineteenth century. I was disappointed to read this. It seems that Tey is just publicizing the earlier works of other Richard III defenders, this novel is not based upon original ideas. Yes, it is interesting to learn the King Richard III might be the victim of a Tudor character-assassination, but as a story, The Daughter of Time did not come across very well. Certainly it does not deserve the blurb on the front cover on the edition that I read: "One of the best mysteries of all time" - The New York Times