Thursday, February 14, 2013

Two stories about Richard III

In honor of the very exciting confirmation that Richard III's remains have been found (and by the way I'd like to thank Livius Drusus at The History Blog for being so informative about it!), I though I'd revisit a couple of fun mysteries: the classic Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, and Elizabeth Peters' homage, The Murders of Richard III.

Grant's portrait of Richard III
In The Daughter of Time, Inspector Grant is laid up in hospital, unable to move and bored stiff.  A friend suggests he study a historical mystery and gives him a pile of portrait prints to keep him entertained--Grant has an interest in faces.  One face grabs his attention, and he wonders: how can a man who looks so careful and virtuous be one of the worst murderers of all time?  The portrait, of course, is Richard III and Grant spends his time going back to primary sources, reading up on history and realizing that there is no evidence to convict Richard III of murdering his nephews (Tey ignores a rebellion and didn't know some other things, so don't take this as gospel.  No one knows what happened to the princes in the Tower).  The whole book is filled with invective against what Grant calls "Tonypandy"--using legend and propaganda as history (as, for example, in the Boston Massacre).

It's a great book and very fun to read, but don't be too swayed by Tey's partisanship for Richard.  I'd like to note, by the way, that she falls for some Tonypandy at one point, referring to "the mad Juana of Spain" -- and as we now know, Juana wasn't mad at all, though I can't blame Tey for not knowing that!


The Murders of Richard III riffs on Tey's famous novel.  Jacqueline Kirby, Elizabeth Peters' wonderful librarian detective, ends up at a country house weekend with a pack of pro-Richard enthusiasts.  They repeat the same arguments that Tey used, and they have also taken on the parts of historical characters.  Someone starts attacking people (non-lethally), re-enacting the deaths of 500 years ago--so that for example the fellow playing the Duke of Clarence, who "drowned in a butt of malmsey," is knocked out and awakens upside-down in an empty wine barrel.  As panic sets in, Jacqueline is the only one to keep her cool and see through the pretense to the real danger!  Good stuff.

Also there's a nice line that I like very much:  
"I know a little bit, but not enough, about everything," said Jacqueline.  "I'm a librarian, remember?"
Which pretty much sums up why I'm a librarian--I like knowing a little bit about everything, but I haven't got the attention span to know everything about anything.

3 comments:

Helen said...

I love books about Richard III and The Daughter of Time is one of my favourites. I haven't read the Elizabeth Peters book yet, but it sounds fun!

jennysbooks said...

Oh how I do love these two mysteries. I particularly like it that Jacqueline references The Daughter of Time.

Alex in Leeds said...

I've read both and enjoyed them a good deal, they work very nicely as companion reads I think. :)