The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey

I understand that I am the last person in the Universe to read this book. Published in 1951 it tells the story of a fictional detective, Inspector Alan Grant. Inspector Grant is recovering in hospital from a fall down an open trap door believe it or not and, because he is bored, he begins to investigate the story of the murder of “The Princes in the Tower” – as you do. Thinking about it, it’s not a bad way to spend prolonged time in hospital. When my brother was in Bolton Royal, after being run over on a zebra crossing, it fell to me to play endless games of Connect Four to keep a bored schoolboy entertained. I have never really been able to look that game in the eye ever since.

Inspector Grant is a far deeper kind of person, fascinated by a portrait of Richard III and he thinks that he doesn’t look like the kind of person who would arrange for the murder of two young boys – which is a big assertion to make based on one portrait but that’s Inspector Grant for you. So he begins to investigate, undeterred by the fact that he is forced to lie down all the time and perhaps an even bigger obstacle, the fact that the crime happened almost 500 years earlier. I am not sure if this kind of detective story has been done before Josephine Tey wrote this book. I remember that Inspector Morse once solved a very old case from his hospital bed but that was fictional and therefore cheating a bit. I also remember, I think, a TV programme in the 70s where two detectives from Z cars pretended to look into old unsolved cases like Jack the Ripper and the Lindberg Killing. Was it Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor?

Anyway, this is a cracking book. You will not be surprised to learn that Grant is unimpressed by the accounts of the time that suggested that Richard was responsible and he comes up with someone else that he thinks is much more likely. (No spoilers but it is the usual person whose name always comes up as a suspect). I was glad that I do have a smattering of English history under my belt because there’s an awful lot of Henrys and their wives and offspring knocking about so you have to keep track. I enjoyed it and I agree with Alan that there is more to this than meets the eye.

Also interesting was the part played by Thomas More who wrote the definitive history of Richard III during the life of Henry VIII. For long complicated reasons of succession that I am too tired and undereducated to go into now, it went down very well with Henry VIII that Richard was portrayed as a wicked child murderer and a hunchback and, to no one’s surprise, More was happy to supply this narrative and we have more or less accepted that as the truth ever since.

I don’t think I would bet the farm on the possibility that Richard didn’t do it. Yet, in these times of fake news when we struggle to find the truth about politicians, leaders and plenty of others who want to be the boss of us, it is interesting to speculate on the narrative that we are being fed and who benefits from what we believe. We are assured that it shouldn’t make any difference what our leaders do in their private lives – so long as they get the trains running on time. I say – not so fast sweetheart! These are weird times. It falls to us to hold our leaders to account and, as much as we can, to make sure that we are hearing and judging by the truth even if that’s not always what people want us to hear.



  1. July 1, 2019 / 7:17 am

    I love this book. I first encountered JT through “The Franchise Affair” which was a set text when I was in school. My favourite JT is Brat Farrar. But only now, reading this post have I realised she has a definite thing about The Truth and Honesty in her books. This ridiculous pantomime with a certain politician, realising a photo of the happy couple after reports of a fight. But it cannot be recent because his hair is too long “Oh but it grows so fast, sometimes I have it cut twice a day”… This is not humorous. This is LYING. And I don’t want someone who lies that easily to be our PM. After all, it is knowing the truth which sets us free.

    • lesleyps91
      July 3, 2019 / 9:43 pm

      Have you seen the Twitter photo where they have put that photo of them on the deck of the Titanic? Very clever

  2. July 1, 2019 / 11:56 am

    Ooh — that looks good! My family is CONVINCED it wasn’t Richard.

    • lesleyps91
      July 3, 2019 / 9:41 pm

      Well, after this, they will be certain. I have seen this theory before and it’s very convincing. This is also very entertaining

  3. July 1, 2019 / 6:15 pm

    Like Ang, I read The Franchise affair at school, and went on reading JT’s books. I find them quite fascinating in their different approach to discovering truths. I think one of my favourites was a book about Miss Pym, a psychologist. Wonder if you have read that ?

    • lesleyps91
      July 3, 2019 / 9:40 pm

      No. This was my first. Liked her very much though and will be back

  4. July 1, 2019 / 8:26 pm

    Miss Pym Disposes was the first of her books that came my way, thanks to my mother who was a fan. I do like Inspector Grant, and there is a lovely little poem in ‘to love and be wise’ that I wrote out to keep. Plus I always look forward to the scones, ‘yellow with baking soda’ in The Singing Sands’.

    • lesleyps91
      July 3, 2019 / 9:40 pm

      On the book list – frustrating because I am skint this month. (Moving house expenses) May have a trip to the library

  5. greta
    July 2, 2019 / 1:38 pm

    what a joy for you to discover a new book! i first read ‘daughter of time’ way back in my teens (that would be over 50 years ago!) miss pym disposes is my favourite of josephine try’s books but i’ve read and enjoyed them all. as for politicians and truth telling, oy! it pays to keep alert these days.

    • lesleyps91
      July 3, 2019 / 9:38 pm

      I know. I love finding a new author and then finding she has a HUGE catalogue. I have all these recommendations on my list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *