Tuesday, May 06, 2008


The Book: Josephine Tey, THE DAUGHTER OF TIME. Washington Square Press paperback reprint, 1977. Very good condition; pages are slightly age-browned, but spine is tight.
First read: 1979
Owned since: 1987 (this copy, best guess)

After so many moves and so many cullings of the collection, it surprises me to find so many books on my shelf that I've kept not because I loved them but because I thought I ought to have them. I pretend to be a student of the mystery genre; therefore, I must own this book, because everyone says it's one of the greatest ever written.

I can hear the sputtering start now, and I can even predict where it's coming from. Several of my friends love this book so much they can't talk about it coherently. Don't misunderstand me, it is wonderful; it's a great premise, it's beautifully written, it's ingeniously constructed, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it.

The Daughter of Time finds Tey's series character, Inspector Alan Grant, confined to a hospital bed after falling through a trap door while chasing a suspect. His friend Marta, an actress, distracts him with a collection of portraits -- Grant has always prided himself on being able to read character in a face, so Marta brings him a set of historical murderers. He fixates on the portrait of Richard III, who does not look like a murderer to him, and decides to investigate the fate of Richard's young nephews, who died in the Tower of London.

And now, as I leaf through this book, I see why I kept it. I first read it grudgingly, as a book report assignment from a teacher I disliked. I now realize that she disliked me just as much -- teachers are human, too -- but that didn't keep her from trying to engage me, and this book would have been a smart choice, if I'd been open to it at all. It's been years since I reread The Daughter of Time, but it might be time to do that again. I might finally be ready for it. Thanks, Mrs. Hume.

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