Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — The Daughter of Time

daughter of timeAs a fan of mysteries, I had come across The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey on lists of the best mysteries ever written. When I finally settled down to read it, I found it to be one of the most engrossing stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to discover. It expertly combines two of my passions: history and mystery.

nypl-digitalcollections-99a6ed7e-0d3c-0e0d-e040-e00a18061e25-001-rWritten in England in the 1950’s, the novel features Inspector Alan Grant, laid up in the hospital with a broken leg and bored out of his mind. His actress girlfriend knows his fascination with faces and brings him copies of photos and portraits to study. When he find the portrait of Richard III, he can’t reconcile the face with the man’s reputation as the murderer of his tween age nephews. The girlfriend contacts Brent Carradine, young man doing historical research, and he and Grant begin to believe that the story handed down for 500 years about Richard III being a merrily murdering monster is false.

Although the characters and setting are fictitious, the mystery is not. Edward V and his younger brother Richard did disappear sometime after June 1483. Their uncle Richard, who became king when the boys were declared illegitimate, is the most likely culprit. But Henry Tudor, who killed Richard III in battle and took the throne, also had a motive.

Even more involving than this mystery is the one of how people interpret history. In the novel, Grant and Carradine stick to contemporary sources and must examine the motives of the authors. Was he a sympathizer of the York family, the branch of the royal house Richard III belonged to? Or did the author favor the Lancaster side, of which Henry Tudor was a member?

The two characters also discuss how people lie about events to further their own agenda. I found all this analysis of history so inspiring that I want to use the novel in my own murder mystery. My main character use the techniques of research outlined in the book to investigate a 70-year-old mystery in his rural West Virginia county.

If you want to learn more about Richard III and his nephews, click here for the Wikipedia article. Many books have been written about the mystery, and it’s difficult to find ones that are biased. As I stated in one of my earliest blog posts, the authors tend to be either ardent Richard III supporters or detractors. Very much like the people who wrote about Richard in 1483.

What other novels have you read that blend unsolved real-life mysteries with fiction?


Writing Tip

Digging Deeper into History

I have always liked mysteries of history.  Was King Arthur and his knights based on real people?  Were there really Amazons living near Ancient Greece?  What happened to the settlers o Roanoke?

The mystery that has inspired my own writing is the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in England, 1483-1485.

The Princes were Edward V, King of England, twelve years old at the time he came to the throne, and his younger brother Richard.  Before Edward V could be officially crowned, a priest declared his father’s marriage illegal and all his children illegitimate.  So Edward V and his brother and five sisters were no longer eligible for the throne.  His father’s brother, Richard, became king, Richard III.  The last sighting of Edward V and his brother Richard is in the summer of 1483.

The royal family at this time was broken into two factions, the York branch and the Lancaster branch, who were warring with each other for the throne.  Richard III was a York.  In 1485, Henry Tudor, a Lancaster, killed Richard III in battle, declared himself king, and married Edward V’s sister.  He said Richard III murdered his nephews to tighten his hold on the throne.  Of course, if Henry Tudor had found the boys alive and well when he took over, he would have a good reason for making them disappear and blaming their disappearance on a dead man.  Both men had motive, means, and opportunity.  Other people have also been suggested as the possible murderer.  No bodies were found until nearly two hundred years after the crime.  Skeletons have been unearthed near where the boys were living, but no modern examination of the bones has been conducted.

I became interested in this crime when I read The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Ms. Tey believed the Tudors used Richard III as a scapegoat for Henry Tudor’s crime.  She uses fictional characters to conduct research on the real crime and it becomes an exploration of how history is recorded and how accurate it is.

I am working on a mystery where my main character is a seventeen-year-old history buff and is reading about the Princes out of curiosity.  When a series of murders strikes the leading family in his county, he sees a pattern with a murder from over fifty years ago.  Using The Daughter of Time as a guideline on how to do research, he discovers parallels between the current crimes and the disappearance of the Princes, specifically that a dead man makes the perfect fall guy.

If you are interested in the Princes, many books have been written about them, but I have discovered a very unusual aspect about them.  Many of them are very pro-Richard III — he couldn’t have possibly killed his nephew — or very anti-Richard III — he is the only one who could have committed the crime.  For a crime over 500 years old, it stirs strong feelings in people like it was committed last week.  So you have to read a lot of books to get a balanced understanding

Side note:  Many tales revolved around what happened to Richard III’s body after he was killed in battle.  It was recently discovered and reburied with a service in 2015.  For more on Richard III, click here. Here is the Wikipedia article on the Princes.

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