The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (ages 12 and up)
Did King Richard III really murder his two nephews, “the princes in the Tower”? Classic mystery writer Josephine Tey didn’t think so, and in 1951 she wrote and published a book to prove it: The Daughter of Time. “Truth is the daughter of time”–and in time the truth comes out.
But history can be very, very tricky. Finding out “what really happened,” Thucydides wrote, over 2,000 years ago, is the hardest thing about studying history. And he ought to know!
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is just about the best week in the year–at least in the Northern Hemisphere, when it’s so terribly cold–for snuggling up with a good book. And given that the mortal remains of King Richard were only recently discovered under an English parking lot, this 15th-century mystery seems quite timely.
In Tey’s novel, Inspector Alan Grant (not the one from Jurassic Park) of Scotland Yard, laid up with a broken leg, applies modern police methods to investigate the claim against Richard. All I can tell you about it, without spoiling the fun, is that he does a very thorough job and I find his conclusion 100% convincing. So do a lot of people. The book is full of insights into history–how facts are gathered, the role of propaganda, how to decide whom to believe and whom to dismiss… I mean, how do we “know” what we think we know? How many things that we’re sure we know… just ain’t so?
History is chock-full of stuff like that. That’s why I love it.
Many critics think Daughter of Time is one of the four or five best mystery novels ever written–out of many thousands. I’ve probably read hundreds… and I agree!
The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain (1963)
I first read this book when I was 14 years old. My mother read it first and had high praise for it: nothing she liked better than lively, well-written history.
This history is as colorful as it gets. The Wars of the Roses and Richard III; the Peasants’ Revolt; Henry VI sinking into lunacy; William Caxton setting up his printing press–they’re all here in glorious technicolor. And Costain isn’t afraid to admit it when his passions get involved. Nor is he afraid to dip into historical enigmas and controversies–did Richard III really murder his nephews?–weigh the evidence on either side, and try to find the truth.
Many young people think of history as a collection of boring and irrelevant trivia; but The Last Plantagenets is anything but that. It just might whet your appetite for more.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
I’ve been reading The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (1951), and wishing it would go on for several volumes. This truly is one of the greatest mysteries ever written: I guarantee it.
Here, a police detective confined by injuries to a hospital bed, bored beyond endurance, finds escape in trying to solve a mystery from the year 1483: who killed the two little princes in the Tower of London? Was it Richard III, their uncle? Was he the bloodthirsty fiend Shakespeare painted him out to be?
Applying modern police methods to the case, and his own wide experience as a detective, Allan Grant finds his whole grasp of history suddenly unraveling. What starts him off is this picture of King Richard III–the last of the Plantagenets, and the last English king to die in battle.
Take a good look at that face. This portrait was painted from life. Grant cannot believe it is the face of a monster. It’s a face that has seen much trouble, with more looming up ahead, and has known suffering.
I’d like you to compare it with the face of Henry VII, first king of the Tudor dynasty, the man who killed Richard and took his throne.
Seriously–would you buy a used car from this man? He looks like a Democrat. He looks like he’d steal the teeth out of your mouth.
True, God warns us against judging by outward appearances. But that doesn’t mean we must automatically discard first impressions. Sometimes the inner man shapes the outward man.
Meanwhile, I’ll be sorry when I’ve finished The Daughter of Time. I’ve read a great many mysteries, but never encountered another story like this one.