I’m trying to work my way through all of the Scottish writer Josephine Tey’s books and this is one which I’d been looking forward to getting a hold of as so many people seem to have enjoyed it. And I’m another one.
Detective Alan Grant is going mad with boredom, stuck in a hospital bed flat on his back with only the cracks in the ceiling to scrutinise. Embarrassingly, he had fallen through a trapdoor whilst chasing a criminal and had badly broken his leg.
When his actress friend Marta tries to think of ways which he can entertain himself she suggests that he could try to solve a historical mystery and she later brings him a sheaf of prints of historical portraits to whet his appetite. Grant thinks that he is good at ‘reading’ people’s personalities from their faces and it’s the portrait of Richard III which intrigues him. It doesn’t look like the face of a man who would have his small nephews murdered.
Grant decides that that is the mystery which he is going to look into and after he exhausts the text books which he is given it’s his young American visitor, a student called Brent Carradine who helps him to get further with his research.
As I said, I enjoyed this one which was quite different from her other books and considering that Grant is immobilised throughout the book he still manages to be an interesting character.
It is obvious to us all that history is written by the winners so any historical accounts have to be taken bearing that in mind. Tey gives quite a few examples of this and in particular she complains that the Scottish covenanters have been given a bit of a white-wash job over the years. She says that none of them were put to death despite the fact that everyone thinks that they were. She says that they were guilty of sedition as if that is something really heinous. But sedition is just talking against the government! Hands up anyone who has done that in the past – yes all of us, if we have half a brain!
Tey also glosses over the fact that being transported (sent to the penal colonies in Australia) was more or less a death sentence. Many of the prisoners died on the voyage and most of the others died of fevers shortly after getting to Australia.
One of my ancestors was transported to Australia for- yes you guessed it – sedition, and he only survived 7 months there. So it’s just as well that he and his wife exchanged mourning rings before he left. They knew that they would never see each other again.
Anyway, if you like vintage crime, you’ll probably enjoy The Daughter of Time which was first published in 1951.