Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Daughter of Time

I chatted very briefly once with a woman at church about books, and I mentioned that I love mysteries. The next week she brought me two of her favorites, and luckily they were both pretty short so I had a shot at finishing them.

The first was The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I make no claim to be especially well-read or a great knower of authors but I admit I was taken aback when, in his glowing introduction, Robert Barnard (a fellow mystery writer) proclaimed Ms. Tey to be one of the greatest mystery writers of all time. Not only that, but several singular and collective sources point to The Daughter of Time as one of the best mysteries of all time. I'd never heard of either of them. So I was obviously anxious to jump in.

It wasn't quite what I expected. It was neither thrilling nor suspenseful. But it was admittedly enjoyable and sometimes gripping. Basically a police detective, hospital bedridden with a broken leg and bored senseless, becomes intrigued by a painting of Richard III his friend brings him. A student of faces, he decides the face in the painting does not match the legend associated with Richard, which is that he was a monster and murdered his two young nephews. He orders books and eventually acquires a research assistant to run back and forth to the British Museum, and through historical facts and deductive conversations they conclude a new truth about Richard and his nephews. The title comes from an old proverb:

"Truth is the daughter of time."

True, it was remarkably well-written and a fun piece of deductive detection to follow - good for keeping your brain tuned - but just not very exciting. Especially when you don't know - or care - anything about British history whatsoever, which is what the whole book is about. You're lucky to remember where your keys are. So yes, I'd say it was good. But it's #4 on the Mystery Writers of America Top 100 Mysteries of All Time, so it must be really good if you're a mystery writer, and really really good if you're a Richard III supporter.

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

A [fabulously well-read] friend of mine back in Indiana was always recommending Josephine Tey to me. I still haven't picked up any of her books, but I'd like to. I'm glad to see you enjoyed her!

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