A Satisfying Solution

More often than not, mystery novels end with a definitive solution to the puzzle; real life is not always so accommodating, perhaps especially when the mysteries in question are historical rather than criminal.

How delightful, then, to see a historical mystery resolved so thoroughly as that of the identification of the remains of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England. Scientists have applied archaeological, osteological, and genetic analysis techniques to determine that the skeleton, discovered under a parking lot in August of last year, is “beyond reasonable doubt” that of Richard III. The BBC has an interesting interactive guide to the remains.

Undoubtedly, many readers will be moved by this news to revisit Shakespeare’s play, which has done so much to shape our contemporary image of the hunchbacked king (“My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, / And every tongue brings in a several tale, / And every tale condemns me for a villain”). Mystery lovers, however, may feel an additional impulse: to re-read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, in which Inspector Alan Grant, confined to his sickbed, investigates the longstanding charge that Richard murdered his two nephews to protect his claim to the throne. He comes to a surprising conclusion.

In 1990, the Crime Writers’ Association named The Daughter of Time the best mystery novel of all time.

What better excuse do you need?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Satisfying Solution

  1. Robert Lopresti

    one problem with history is that it progresses. I think Tey’s arguments have been brushed aside by newer research, but the book remains a delight.

  2. I’m glad Richard III will find a more dignified resting place now. Judging from the little I’ve read, I’d guess Tey came closer to the truth about Richard than Shakespeare did (Shakespeare, of course, had solid, practical reasons for not telling the truth). As to the CWA list, I think I’d move GAUDY NIGHT up to the top spot and move THE DAUGHTER OF TIME down just slightly, to second place. I’d be embarrassed to admit how often I’ve reread both of them.

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