‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey

Inspector Alan Grant, recurring star of Josephine Tey’s classic detective novels, has broken his leg. Confined to a hospital bed, with nothing to amuse him but the books brought to him by his friends, his attention is caught by a reproduction of a painting from the National Portrait Gallery. The painting is of Richard III, famous for allegedly murdering his two young nephews – ‘The Princes in the Tower’ – to secure his own ascension to the English throne. Grant, however, does not believe that the face he sees is that of a killer, and embarks on a mission to prove the innocence of the dead king…

When you think about it, The Daughter of Time is a strikingly unusual work of crime fiction, being as it is one in which the detective spends the entire novel confined to a bed, and does nothing but read books. It doesn’t sound like the most enthralling of premises, I’ll grant you, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It certainly says something about Tey’s abilities as a writer that she is able to make such an apparently prosaic set-up so entertaining and interesting. What emerges from the novel is an intelligent and thought-provoking rumination on the natures of history, truth, text, and story-telling, and on the points at which these concepts intersect. I particularly liked Grant’s coining of the term ‘Tonypandy’ to describe the process by which history is so often written by the winners, for example. If you read a lot of crime fiction, I would certainly recommend you try out this unusual classic of the genre, and if you are interested in ideas about philosophy, history, and the power of the written word, you too might find something to enjoy.

Josephine Tey

4 thoughts on “‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey”

  1. This is the only Tey I’ve read, and like you, I really enjoyed it. It does sound like it would be so dull, but really isn’t! I think it was voted by crime writers as the top crime novel at one point. I want to read more of hers, but I haven’t got round to it yet…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is my favorite Tey. I love how she is able to make a book where not that much really happens absolutely enthralling. I first read it when I was quite young and a bit of a trusting soul. The idea of tonypandy fascinated me and I went on to read a lot about Richard III.

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