The Daughter of Time is the fifth novel in the Inspector Alan Grant series by Josephine Tey. It was published in 1951, making it the last book she published before her death.
Josephine Tey was the pseudonym of an author named Elizabeth Mackintosh. She is most well known for her Alan Grant detective novels, but she also wrote 2 other stand alone novels surrounding other detectives, as well as some other novels, short stories, and plays under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot.
The book follows Alan Grant, a police inspector from Scotland Yard, who was injured in a case and is stuck in the hospital. His friend Marta brings him the portraits of several people from history who have mysteries surrounding them, as he has a particular knack for analyzing faces. He becomes interested in the face of Richard III, a notorious king of England. He is thought by many historians to have murdered his two young nephews in order to win the throne, but Grant does not think his face looks like that of a brutal murderer. Grant becomes obsessed with trying to prove through historical research that Richard could not have done this, and tries to find out who did.
Alan Grant appears in several more mysteries, although this was the first of his that I read. Grant has an amusing, sarcastic internal and external dialogue that made me enjoy reading about him.
Due to the historical basis of the mystery, any suspects are long dead, leaving any living characters seen to be allies to Grant. Although no characters gain much development in the novel, the ones we see are amusing and helpful. My favorite character, besides Grant, and one of the most important, was Brent Carradine, a young American researcher at the British Museum who helped Grant with the case. He does not appear in any other mysteries, but plays the Watson to Grant’s Holmes and is very helpful to Grant finally solving the mystery. Others include his reoccurring actress friend Marta Hallard, his assistant from Scotland Yard Sergeant Williams, and the nurses at the hospital, The Midget and The Amazon.
Stylistically the book is very descriptive, giving details of what Grant is seeing and experiencing. One unique aspect was the inclusion of excerpts from some real and fictional history books that Grant was reading. This adds to the realism of the detection process, as it allows the reader to be able to experience the process along with Grant.
This is an early example of a historical mystery, and it focuses much more on the process of historical research than on what the reader would think of as the standard detection methods. However Grant still analyzes this case as he does any police case by looking at alibis and other clues. As a history major, I am quite interested in the
method of historical research, though I recognize that the standard reader looking for a fast paced or suspenseful detective novel may be disappointed by the lack of action.
In addition to being a historical mystery, this is an example of a police procedural as it follows the actions of a police detective, and uses the strategies of policing to solve the case. Grant also falls within the tradition of an armchair detective, as he is injured in bed for his whole case. He is a loner and gentleman detective, with a charming demeanor but few close friends.
The Daughter of Time was well received, coming at #4 on the Mystery Writers of America’s Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time,3 and #1 on the UK Crime Writer’s Association’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time.2
Overall I would personally give the novel a 4/5 stars, though I would give the caveat that many people may not enjoy the novel if they are expecting it to be a standard detective novel. For me, this gave an excellent look at analyzing and questioning the authority of history, with an engaging and skilled writing style.
- Bargainnier, E. F. (1981). 10 Women of Mystery. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
- “Book awards: Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time – UK Crime Writers’ Association.” Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time – UK Crime Writers’ Association | Book awards | LibraryThing, LibraryThing, www.librarything.com/bookaward/Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time – UK Crime Writers%27 Association.
- “Book awards: The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time Mystery Writers of America.” The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time Mystery Writers of America | Book awards | LibraryThing, LibraryThing, www.librarything.com/bookaward/The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time Mystery Writers of America.
- Rollyson, C. E. (2008). Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction (Vol. 4). Salem Press.
- Roy, S. (1980). Josephine Tey (K. E. Roby, Ed.). Boston, MA: Twayne .
- Tey, J. (1951). Daughter of Time. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Inc.