I can't remember when I first read The Daughter of Time, but I know that I was very young and that it was given to me by my mother, who introduced me to much wonderful golden age crime. She loved Josephine Tey (actually knew her slightly) and so, of course, do I.
So yes, this was a re-read, probably even a re-re-read, but none the worse for that. I picked it up a couple of days ago, read three-quarters of it at one sitting, and polished it off yesterday. Of course I knew the plot - who doesn't- but that in no way diminished the fascination of watching the two protagonists making their astounding discoveries.
I can't believe you don't already know this, but the novel concerns Tey's regular detective, Inspector Alan Grant, who is confined to bed in hospital following a serious accident. Bored with all the contemporary best sellers people keep bringing him (there's a great satirical passage describing some of their contents) he welcomes a gift from his actress friend Marta of a collection of prints of famous faces from history. One of them is of a face he doesn't at first identify - a sensitive, intelligent, rather troubled face of someone who turns out to be the great monster of English history, Richard III, notoriously a wicked hunchback who killed his nephews in order to claim the throne. Grant is fascinated by the discrepancy between the face and the reputation, borrows some old school history books from a nurse, sends out for library books, gets more and more puzzled. It soon becomes clear that the whole picture of Richard that has come to be accepted has its origin in a book by Thomas More, who was only 5 when the events he is describing took place. Hearsay, then, and clearly influenced by the Tudors, who claimed the throne on Richard's death. Grant acquires the help of a young American researcher, Brent Carradine, who is able to spend his days rummaging in the British Museum, and together the two uncover a disgraceful piece of political jiggery-pokery, designed to legitimise Henry VII's decidedly dodgy right to the English throne.
There's so much to love and admire about this book. It's consistently reached the top of 'Best 100 crime novels' lists which, considering that it is bursting with serious genuine historical research, is quite an achievement. But yes it is a crime novel, with Grant applying his traditional investigating methodology to discover who was actually responsible for the deaths of the two Princes in the Tower, Edward Prince of Wales and his brother. Essentially it all comes down to what Grant says is always the primary factor in such cases - motive. Grant's reasoning and Brent's research show conclusively that Richard had no motive at all. The mother of the two boys had been shown not to be legally married to Richard's brother, the previous king, making the boys illegitimate and Richard the right person to take the throne. There's a much more plausible suspect, though, in the person of Henry VII, who had many reasons to want to dispose of anyone who might challenge his claim.
Josephine Tey - actually Elizabeth Mackintosh - had a lifetime's fascination with history. Under a different pseudonym, Gordon Daviot, she wrote several hugely successful historical dramas, including the celebrated Richard of Bordeaux. Although she wrote a number of crime novels, she never abandoned her other interest, and there's no doubt that the research undertaken here by Grant and Brent is entirely bona fide. For me she makes an absolutely unarguable case for Richard's innocence, and also provides a demonstration of a broader point, the fact that it's only too easy for false historical myths to become accepted truths.