I first heard ‘The Daughter of Time’ read on the radio; there used to be a story spot at 4:45 leading to the five o’clock news program. I heard so many really excellent novels and non-fiction books which introduced me to new to me authors… Dick Francis ‘The Risk’, Richard Hughes ‘Watership Down’, John Cornwell ‘Earth to Earth’ and many more… and Josephine Tey.
I heard two of Josephine Tey’s novels read, ‘The Franchise Affair’ which was made into a film starring Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray, and ‘The Daughter of Time’. The Franchise Affair’ was about a young woman who had been kidnapped – or had she? ‘The Daughter of Time’ is completely different, a novel about an incapacitated detective (in hospital with a broken leg) who investigates not a current crime, but a legendary one from five hundred years ago.
‘The Daughter of Time’ was voted #1 in the top 100 best ever crime novels in 1990, nearly forty years after her death (in 1952), the year after ‘Daughter of Time’ was published) The crime the detective, Alan Grant is reviewing is the supposed murder of the two princes in the tower by Richard III. If you haven’t read it I recommend that you do and I won’t spoil it by revealing what the bed-bound detective finds out, aided by a young American researcher from the British Museum.
The book must have been written 1950-51 and what intrigued me as well as the investigation, was how it also shows so much about society at that time. Because I’ve read the book so many times before I knew the plot and the characters, but I had forgotten much else… or maybe I didn’t realise it.
Alan Grant the detective is in hospital with a broken leg; in 1950 such injuries meant you spent all your recovery time flat on your back in bed. Once he was about to be sent home, it was with the instruction to spend half a day in bed and only walk with sticks. My husband recently broke his knee; he was not in plaster but in a splint and then a brace, and was told to be as active as possible, and to put as much weight as he could on the injured leg to aid healing and recovery.
Not only did the young assistant researcher smoke in the hospital room, but so did Alan Grant, lying flat on his back in bed! This seemed extraordinary and shocking to me, even though I grew up in a society where smoking was a norm, unlike my children who find the whole thing repulsive and almost horrific!
There was also an understated elitism running through the book, which I hadn’t even noticed when I first read it; Mrs Tinker the home help, is portrayed as a loyal simple soul, who is so pleased to receive an expensive leather handbag each Christmas that she never uses it but keeps it put away in its tissue paper and uses a plastic bag instead. The police sergeant is also a simple soul, even though he manages to solve a different crime, with an archetypal ‘thug’ – who should have been thumped more regularly by his father to keep him out of trouble!! The nurses are portrayed in an affectionate way but as virtual simpletons, but the matron, of a different class is an almost mystical being with insight and wisdom.
These comments are not criticisms, the book was of its time, Josephine Tey was a most private woman, novelist and dramatist, and having re-read the Richard III mystery, I am going to reread her other books – they are certainly gripping page-turners, and remain in the imagination long after the final page!
Inspector Alan Grant
- The Man in the Queue/ Killer in the Crowd -1929
- A Shilling for Candles – 1936
- The Franchise Affair – 1948
- To Love and Be Wise – 1950
- The Daughter of Time – 1951
- The Singing Sands – 1952
- Miss Pym Disposes – 1946
- Brat Farrar/ Come and Kill Me – 1949
- Kif: – 1929
- The Expensive Halo: A Fable without Moral – 1931
- The Privateer – 1952
Josephine Tey 1896 – 1952)