-Post by Molly
On Tuesday, April 21st, at 2 PM on BookPeople’s third floor, the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets to discuss Josephine Tey’s vibrant and entertaining historical crime novel, The Daughter of Time. Last month, we read The Snowman by Jo Nesbø, and our next pick is Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks, with a special call-in from the author.
The Daughter of Time may have my favorite excuse to investigate a crime ever. Inspector Alan Grant, confined to his hospital bed as his broken leg heals, finds an unorthodox way to spend his recuperation in his endless struggle against the kind of boredom that only the English can truly experience – he decides to solve a murder. But what kind of murder can one investigate from a sickbed? Grant decides to solve a historical crime; specifically, the murder of two young heirs to the previous king by their wicked, hunchbacked uncle, Richard III.
When Grant begins to examine the evidence against the much maligned figure, he finds nothing in the sources of the time to corroborate the prevailing theory of the children’s murders. In fact, he finds only hearsay, and if there is one thing that a Scotland Yard detective cannot stand, it is a conviction based solely on hearsay. With the help of nurses, actors, and a wealthy American research student, he sets out to exonerate Richard and discover the true villain.
What follows is a fascinating and frequently amusing combination of police procedural and historical fiction. The reader, with the interpretive help of Grant, is immersed in the deadly politics and feisty royals that make the Wars of the Roses such an appealing time period to study and draw upon, even now. George R. R. Martin has based his wildly popular Game of Thrones series on the Wars of the Roses (the Lancasters of history became the Lannisters of fiction, and so on), and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, full of menacing and Machiavellian aristocrats jockeying for power in the court of King Henry VIII, is set only a little while after the bloody mess that Richard III attempted, and failed, to rule over. Only three years ago, bones were discovered, exhumed, and proved beyond reasonable doubt to be those of Richard III, and only last month were these bones re-interred at Leicester Cathedral after a lengthy court battle.
Josephine Tey uses her story not only as an easy-to-follow introduction to a very complex time, but also as a meditation on the nature of hearsay versus history, and how time can erase the burden of proof laid on the accuser and instead turn contemporary doubts into future certainties. Tey may have written the novel in 1930, but while the slang and mannerisms have aged charmingly well, Tey’s exploration of the fine line between fact and fiction feels remarkably contemporary.
Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club members receive 10% off of their purchase of their monthly book club title.