Book review: The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time,
(Inspector Alan Grant #5)
by Josephine Tey
Published in 1951
206 pages
Historical mystery


I was very impressed by The Man in the Queue, the first book in the Inspector Alan Grant series. Impressed especially by the richness of vocabulary, an element you don’t often find these days in the mystery genre.
So I intended to read the other volumes in order, but then EVERYONE was telling me their favorite was #5: The Daughter of Time.
So I decided to listen to you. And I am sure glad I did!

As the book opens, well in fact throughout the book, Alan Grant is in hospital – it seems he fell through a trap-door while pursuing a thief. He is so banged up that he can only lie on his hospital bed, and he is extremely bored. He tries to read, but tires quickly of the newspaper and uninteresting books his friends bring him.

One day, his friend Marta suggests he focuses on unsolved problems in history. Then she remembers his fascination for faces and she brings him portraits of historical figures connected with an enigma. His attention is attracted to a portrait you may all know:


I chose to post this portrait, because I think it’s closer to the author’s description, than the one printed inside the book and on this cover. This is Richard’s earliest surviving portrait.

King Richard III.
Whose reputation (spread through Shakespeare for instance) is that of a monster, who killed his two young nephews, among other horrible deeds.
But Alan has a hard time reconciling this portrait with what he’s been told about him.

So now, he completely forgets his boredom and reads all he can on the man, to figure out who he really was.
He is helped in that by a young student Brent who can go to the library to get him documents and help in the research as well.

Follows a wonderful survey of how a historical reputation develops; a closer look at first biographies, contemporary  accounts, what they say, and how opinions are made and repeated from then on – with several other examples.

“Tomorrow a whisper may destroy you”
Chapter 9

“Grant wondered with what part of their brains historians reasoned”
Chapter 14

Tey’s perspective is totally unique: approaching a historical enigma through the eyes, questions, and technique of a modern police inspector. With a close look at important documents (including many quotes).

You will no longer read history the same way after you are done with this book, and before assuming what you read is correct, you might want to do more research on your own.
Rewriting history to fit a political agenda? Does this sound familiar and modern to you? Well, nothing new under the sun.

And if you love England’s history, you definitely need to read it. Though it may dampen somewhat your love for the Tudors!

Beside the above strong points, Tey has a gallery of hilarious hospital staff members, and great dialogs.

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to read The Daughter of Time.

VERDICT: Unique and fascinating perspective: analyze historical enigmas with the eyes of a modern police inspector.


Any other good novel along the same lines?


26 thoughts on “Book review: The Daughter of Time

  1. I did read this, but it has been years and years ago. I love the Inspector Grant series. I do have a copy of this book to reread and I should do that soon. I am glad you enjoyed it.


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  4. I loved this book and it got me interested in Richard III. I read a few books at the same time as they found his grave. What a great story. I also read Philippa Langley’s book about it. I just saw that they have filmed it and it is soon to be released, if not already.
    I also read about the princes in the Tower, and continued with some non-fiction of other kings and queens of the time. Fascinating time.


  5. Glad you enjoyed this. Now you can hunt down the tv show that goes into detail about the unearthing of Richard III’s skeleton about a decade ago. It is totally fascinating!
    This book spawned groups of people determined to reappraise Richard’s reputation.


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