Wrestling with a Fine Woman

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Josephine Tey was a writer of detective stories during the classic era from the 1930s to the 1950s, when Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie, Edmund Crispin, Michael Innes and Dorothy Sayers were to the fore, when sleuths were gents, often displaying strong literary bents. Yet her most famous book, The Daughter of Time, published in 1951, is something of a sport, as much fact as fiction, as much to do with the fifteenth century as the 1950s. The Daughter of Time is Truth, according to the proverb on the title page, and the book is about who actually murdered the Princes in the Tower, the two male children of Edward IV. Josephine Tey had the brilliant idea of setting one of history’s great mysteries as a problem to be solved by her regular detective-hero, Alan Grant.

It could have been the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask, what killed Napoleon on St Helena or whether the Tichborne Claimant was genuine, but her first great success, the play Richard of Bordeaux (1932, written under the name of Gordon Daviot, though Tey’s real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh and she hailed from Inverness), had already made her familiar with the medieval kings of England. It was a natural progression, therefore, from the reign of Richard II to that of Richard III, and she had in fact written an unperformed play about the latter in the mid-1940s. She had also prepared for her imaginative leap when she published The Franchise Affair in 1948, a modern detective story centred on a case of kidnapping and imprisonment, but in fact a retelling of a notorious real-life mid-eighteenth-century murder case. This had been a great success and was made into a film in 1950, so why not go the whole hog and not even bother to transpose events to the present?

Alan Grant lies, bored and frustrated, in his hospital bed, waiting for his broken leg to mend. A friend, knowing his penchant for arriving at people’s characters from their faces, gives him some postcar

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About the contributor

Roger Hudson has worked in publishing all his life, latterly compiling a number of books for the Folio Society. His modestly titled Hudson’s English History came out from Weidenfeld in 2005.

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