Tag Archives: England

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

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The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Series: Inspector Alan Grant #5
Published by Dell on 1968 (first published 1951)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 189
Format: Paperback
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Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.

I picked up The Daughter of Time at the local used bookstore a year or so ago. i had no idea what it was about and had never read anything by Josephine Tey before, but it’s one of those mysteries – the ones that make it onto the “best” lists, the ones that any true mystery lover should read.

The title refer to a quote from Francis Bacon: “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.” It’s the same idea as history is written by the victor. Not all “history” is strictly truth, it’s a version someone has told that has stuck. I wish I knew more about British history, particularly Richard III, or that I had read Shakespeare’s play. If I go back to read this again, I may do a little research first. That being said, it is truly an enjoyable book on its own.

Our detective, Alan Grant, is laid up in the hospital and a friend, Marta, brings him a bunch of pictures including one of Richard III to help soothe his boredom. He becomes fascinated with the portrait, not seeing in the face the murderer that Richard III is known to be.

King Richard III by an unknown artist, late 16th century. Image from the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/

What follows is a mystery unlike any I’ve read, at least as far as I can remember. Grant, along with the help of a young historian, sets out to learn the truth about whether Richard was truly responsible for his nephews’ deaths. We never leave the hospital room, no one is ever in danger, the players in the mystery are all long-dead, but it still grabbed my attention. It’s a fascinating story and Tey does an excellent job at presenting the evidence. It’s also a good reminder that not all facts can be taken at face value. I don’t know if he killed the nephews or not, but I don’t know that it matters to this particular story.

I don’t pass mysteries onto my mother very often, but I think this is one that I’ll send her way. It’s that good. Really, it’s amazing how engrossing a story it manages to be for nothing really happening, except lots and lots of research and reasoning. I did get a little confused with all the names and positions at times, but there are several times when Grant reviews everything which always helped straighten me out.

About Josephine Tey

Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by Elizabeth MacKintosh (25 July 1896 – 13 February 1952), a Scottish author best known for her mystery novels. As Josephine Tey, she wrote six mystery novels including Scotland Yard’s Inspector Alan Grant.

The first of these, ‘The Man in the Queue’ (1929) was published under the pseudonym of Gordon Daviot, whose name also appears on the title page of another of her 1929 novels, ‘Kit An Unvarnished History’. She also used the Daviot by-line for a biography of the 17th century cavalry leader John Graham, which was entitled ‘Claverhouse’ (1937). Mackintosh also wrote plays (both one act and full length), some of which were produced during her lifetime, under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot. These plays often featured biblical or historical themes.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon

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Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
Published by British Library Publishing Division on September 28, 2014 (first published 1937)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Vintage Mystery
Pages: 122
Format: eBook
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On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home.

Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst.

The dog and I were home one Saturday night when Amber and David went off to watch a hockey game. I hadn’t been able to dig out my box of Christmas books yet, but was in the mood for a vintage seasonal mystery. Someone, somewhere said good things about Mystery in White by Farjeon (if it was you, thank you) so I picked it up. I love how many old mysteries have been re-released as e-books in the last few years.

As the blurb says, a train gets stopped by a blizzard on Christmas Eve and a mismatched group of people decide to leave the safety of the train and attempt to make it to the next station on foot. Of course they get lost, but happily stumble upon a house – that is empty but has fires roaring and tea set out. ““Don’t disappoint me? Don’t tell me you cannot supply the corpse? A bread-knife on a floor, a boiling kettle, tea laid, an unlocked front door—and no corpse! Well, well, I suppose we must be satisfied, so let us be grateful and have tea.”

Our leader and detective is Edward Maltby, 60 years old and a proud member of the Royal Psychical Society. He doesn’t actually do much detecting, but he does a lot of thinking and noticing and picking out the clues. The characters are not terrible well-developed, but most are not cardboard either. They have definite personalities and back stories that let you see how they ended up here.

Farjeon does a good job at building suspense. There’s an interesting touch of the paranormal, not overdone, just a bit to kind of move the story along. Only one character seems to be psychic – and it’s not Maltby. He’s not above fooling people when necessary though.

I love a good country house mystery, even more so when the residents are celebrating Christmas, or trying to. With a couple of dead bodies, an altered will, and a hidden treasure, this was an enjoyable read. There were a couple of parts that were pretty unlikely, but it didn’t bother me. I willing to suspend my disbelief for a good story.

About J. Jefferson Farjeon

Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (4 June 1883 – 6 June 1955) was an English crime and mystery novelist, playwright and screenwriter.
His first published work was in 1924 when Brentano’s produced ‘The Master Criminal’, which is a tale of identity reversal involving two brothers, one a master detective, the other a master criminal. This was the beginning of a career that would encompass over 80 published novels, ending with ‘The Caravan Adventure’ in 1955. He also wrote a number of plays and many short stories.
Many of his novels were in the mystery and detective genre although he was recognized as being one of the first novelists to entwine romance with crime.

Thursday’s Tale: The Bogie and the Farmer

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It’s time to get the last of the veggies out of our garden and wrap up for the year, which made me think of looking for a harvest of farming tale. This one comes from England and was told by Thomas Sternberg in The Dialect and Folk-lore of Northamptonshire (London: John Russell Smith, 1851).

One of these spirits, a Bogie, once asserted a claim to a field hitherto possessed by a farmer, and, after much disputing, they came to an arrangement by agreeing to divide its produce between them. At planting time, the farmer asks the Bogie what part of the crop he will have, “tops or bottoms.”

“Bottoms,” said the spirit. Upon hearing this, the crafty farmer sows the field with wheat, so that when harvest arrived the grain falls to his share, while the poor Bogie is obliged to content himself with the stubble.

The next year the Bogie, finding he had made such an unfortunate selection in the bottoms, chose the “tops,” whereupon the crafty farmer plants turnips — thus, again, outwitting the simple claimant.

Tired of this unprofitable farming, the Bogie agrees to hazard his claims on a mowing match, the land in question to be the stake for which they played. Before the day of meeting, the canny farmer procures a number of iron bars, which he distributes among the grass to be mowed by his opponent; and when the contest begins, the unsuspecting goblin finds his progress slowed by his scythe continually coming into contact with these obstacles.

“Mortal hard docks these!” said he. “Nation hard docks!” Docks must mean stalks, I think?

His blunted blade soon brings him to a standstill; and as, in such cases, it is not allowable for one to sharpen without the other, he turns to farmer, now far ahead, and in a tone of despair inquires, “When dye wiffle waffle (whet), mate?” Which I assume means something like when do you want to sharpen the blades.

“Waffle!” said the farmer, with a well-feigned stare of amazement, “oh, about noon, mebby.”

“Then,” said the despairing Bogie, “I’ve lost my land!”

So saying, he disappeared, and the farmer reaped the reward of his cleverness by ever afterwards continuing the undisputed possessor of the soil.

Yeah, once again the clever one wins, but I feel a little bad for the dull Bogie, even if he was just trying to steal the farmer’s land in the beginning.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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