This year I'm trying to read or re-read some of the classic mystery stories that I haven't read before, all listed in the Guardians best crime books list.
First up is Josephine Tey's classic 'The Daughter of Time'. It's a wonderful book, still very readable and feeling contemporary even though it was published in 1951
Alan Grant, an Inspector at Scotland Yard, is sitting in a bed at the hospital with a broken leg. He's bored, with nothing to do except stare at the ceiling. A friend gives him an old portrait of Richard III and he is immediately struck by the sorrow in the man's face, so unlike the image of the man he had read in his school textbooks. He embarks on a quest to find out the truth about the character of the King and of the murder of the prince's in the Tower of London.
This is a novel that digs into the myths of history. Myths that still exist today. Josephine Tey, whose real name was Elizabeth Mackintosh, peels back the layers of lies and untruths using modern investigation techniques and psychological insights. It's an interestingly constructed book with the detective lying in his bed throughout the book, conducting his investigation through proxy researchers. Sometimes, this leads to a lot of exposition which Ms Tey handles deftly.
What struck me was how funny the book was, revealing character and tone through dialogue. The image of the NHS is not one that would stand up today however, with nurses having time to perform errands for patients.
The main character, Alan Grant, reminds me very much of Adam Dalgliesh, the detective created by PD James. They both have the same intelligence and erudition. Not something one would find in any modern portrayal of a detective.
This book is very old school, but very well done, nonetheless. Well worth reading again if you have the time.