June 12, 2006

A Man for All Reasons

I was putting a book back on the shelves last night when I noticed The Daughter of Time one shelf over. I haven't read it in years, so I pulled it down and started. 150 pages later I was still reading. I'd forgotten how compelling the story is. From the Amazon review:

Tey focuses on the legend of Richard III, the evil hunchback of British history accused of murdering his young nephews. While at a London hospital recuperating from a fall, Inspector Alan Grant becomes fascinated by a portrait of King Richard. A student of human faces, Grant cannot believe that the man in the picture would kill his own nephews. With an American researcher's help, Grant delves into his country's history to discover just what kind of man Richard Plantagenet was and who really killed the little princes.

There's a lot in here, and it doesn't hurt to have a little background in the history of English royal families while reading it, but it's unnecessary. It's a marvelous detective story, complete with revelations about the witnesses that will surprise you. For example, "the sainted Thomas More," as Grant begins to refer to him, was five years old when Richard ascended to the throne. More was eight when Richard died at Bosworth. Every word More wrote about Richard III (History of King Richard III) was written long after the events took place, and was thus hearsay. More apparently used the account of a man named John Morton as the basis for his own story of the princes in the Tower. Who was Morton? The Bishop of Ely, Richard's most implacable enemy. (Go here, search for Bishop Morton, then see page 16.)

In one of those amusing tributes novelists occasionally pass along within their own writings, in one of the Nero Wolfe books Rex Stout (in Archie Goodwin's voice) has Wolfe banishing More from his shelves. Why? Because in Wolfe's view, More framed Richard III. I don't think Stout could have written such a thing unless he'd been favorably impressed with the reasoning in Josephine Tey's book. If you haven't read it, do.

Posted by Linkmeister at June 12, 2006 03:42 PM | TrackBack

I read the book in grade ten ('79? '80?). I've since read it a couple of times, and HyperWife has read the book a couple of times, too.

It's a great book, by an author who died too young. I don't know of a book - particularly fiction - that directed my way of thinking about a subject like 'DoT' did (and does).

Posted by: Mike at June 16, 2006 11:52 AM