This is a truly brilliant book. I first read it over 30 years ago, and I've re-read it several times since. It spurred my interest not only in RichardThis is a truly brilliant book. I first read it over 30 years ago, and I've re-read it several times since. It spurred my interest not only in Richard III but in the way that historical sources could be/are used to shape the narrative of events, both contemporaneously and in the future. Probably the two most striking examples of this in Western European history are Richard III and Joan of Arc.
I just finished re-reading The Daughter of Time, this time after reading the other Alan Grant mysteries (which I had not read before). I am again struck by the extraordinary structure of this work. Tey used the historical sources of her time to not only challenge the dominant narrative but also to explore the biases--both obvious and unconscious--in historical writing. There's a moment, about 60% of the way in, where Alan reads a letter from a cousin in Scotland; in relating her own tale of false history that has become the dominant narrative, Laura notes how strongly people resist challenging a narrative with which they've become comfortable. It's easy to see that reluctance today when it comes to things like political or religious ideologies, but it's important to remember that historical narratives shape our view of the world without our conscious knowledge, and it is these unconscious biases that can be so debilitating to our ability to see the world from others' perspectives.
Tey's gift for characterization is again present. It's important to remember that all of the "action" takes place in Grant's hospital room, where he is confined to bed. And yet the novel is never claustraphobic. Once again, Alan Grant is a thoughtful and sympathetic entry to this mystery, and it's lovely to interact again with Marta Hallard (if Tey had continued writing, would she and Grant have paired romantically, as well as platonically? it's clear, in To Love and Be Wise, that Grant has given the matter some thought, even if he isn't sure it would work out). But it's the characters that we won't see again--the Midget and the Amazon, the matron, the surgeon, and the adorable Brent Carradine, who becomes Grant's enthusiastic partner--and the characters that emerge from Grant and Carradine's research and discussions--Richard, Morton, Henry VII, Elizabeth Woodville--who come so delightfully alive and make the reader forget that we've never left Grant's hospital room.
There's a reason that the British Crime Writers' Association named this the greatest mystery of all time. It is beautifully constructed, argues well the evidence known at the time, brings to life individuals who died over 450 years before, but doesn't neglect the "side" characters who are not critical to the mystery but do permit Tey to explore certain themes....more
The strength and weakness of this book is that Lebo is a local--she knew all of the players, knew their neighbors, knew the reporters who were calledThe strength and weakness of this book is that Lebo is a local--she knew all of the players, knew their neighbors, knew the reporters who were called liars and compelled to testify. That knowledge allows her to paint certain individuals (such as Buckingham, an oxycontin-abusing, authoritarian, religious zealot) with sympathy. I found myself feeling sorry for him towards the end of the book. She also uses the intelligent design trial to examine her relationship with her father, a fundamentalist Christian who sees the world so differently from her, and with whom she is constantly trying to obtain some acknowledgment that the world is more complex than fundamentalists portray. Her depiction of their relationship is poignant and moving.
I also really liked her point that the new mantra that journalism should be "fair and balanced" ends up distorting the truth. There isn't real balance in the creationism/intelligent design v. evolution "controversy." The former "theories" are simply dogma; the latter is an actual scientific theory that is supported by the known evidence. To portray both sides as having equal validity undermines the one role of the media, which is to educate its readers about current events and issues. The importance of being objective and truthful, as opposed to some artificial concept of "fair and balanced," is particularly striking today, when so much of the mass media appears driven by ratings and the need to keep corporate owners and advertisers happy, but which is leading to increasingly-uneducated and polarized citizenry.
Where i thought the book was hampered by her insider status was in her depiction of the trial itself. I liked how she conveyed the energy of the courtroom, but I found her descriptions of trial to be incomplete and sometimes disjointed. She reported the highlights but, I feel, without providing enough context to allow the reader to put the case together in his/her own mind. I shared her enthusiasm as she educated herself about evolutionary theory and came to enjoy the scientific testimony, but it was sometimes hard to put all of it together. I'm not sure that Lebo understood how it all went together, which would certainly hinder any attempt to explain it to someone else. Still, this is a fascinating and human account of one of the more interesting cases from the last 20 years, and well worth a read....more
I've always loved The Daughter of Time, but I hadn't read any of Tey's other Alan Grant mysteries. A Shilling for Candles is enjoyable, largely becausI've always loved The Daughter of Time, but I hadn't read any of Tey's other Alan Grant mysteries. A Shilling for Candles is enjoyable, largely because Tey writes lively and direct prose and creates some great characters. Grant is intelligent and thoughtful, but he's not perfect. He has a healthy respect for imagination but that imagination consistently takes into account the facts. Erica Burgoyne is another interesting character; she's a teenager who is independent and lives a bit in her own head. The reader gets the impression that she is socially awkward and doesn't have a lot of friends her own age. But her independence and self-confidence (which are never precious or precocious) lead to an important turning point in Grant's investigation. And Grant's genuine liking of Erica, and his appreciation of her ideas and actions, makes him a more endearing character.
I think a real triumph of this book is the way Tey explores celebrity and brings alive the character of the victim, Christine Clay, who is dead when we first meet her. There are no flashbacks or revealing letters hidden by the murder victim and then later discovered; Christine Clay is revealed (and, sometimes, hidden) through the reminisces of her theatrical colleagues, her husband, people she knew as a child, and--the only direct evidence we have from her--through her will and a codicil. Yet somehow, as the mystery draws to a close, I felt that I had gotten to know and like Christine, and that her death was a cruel and pointless thing.
The resolution of the mystery does rely on Grant's discovery of some last-minute clues that are indicated to, but not shared with, the reader. That irritates me a bit; part of the fun of a mystery is learning along with the detective, and seeing if you put the clues together to get to the same result. It feels like a bit of a cheat to have the detective learn something that isn't shared with the reader, but which is the key to revealing the murderer. Still, this is an enjoyable and satisfying read....more
I purchased this book in a Kindle sale, believing that I had read it before, but I think I confused the title with an earlier Rutledge mystery. I enjoI purchased this book in a Kindle sale, believing that I had read it before, but I think I confused the title with an earlier Rutledge mystery. I enjoyed it, though I'm not sure I'd seek out other Rutledge mysteries if this was the only one I'd read.
Here, Rutledge is sent north to the Lake Country, to a small village that has just been shocked by the brutal murder of a young family, and the oldest child has gone missing during a freak snowstorm. Rutledge faces the familiar challenge of trying to tease out the truth from locals who don't want to share secrets or imagine a killer in their midst. The pace of this mystery is slow, and I think that's because Rutledge is thrust into a largely sedentary role. He arrives at least 3-4 days after the murders, during a storm, and after the locals have been searching for the missing boy for a couple of days. He can't go with the searchers because he doesn't know the land and will be more of a hindrance than a help in the snow. Instead, he is forced to remain in the village, getting reports and trying to tease apart the truth from the lies, as he repeatedly talks to the same few people. Even his excursions from the village have a repetitive quality.
It's not an unrealistic course of action, given the setup, but it becomes a bit tedious. The claustraphobic feeling that Rutledge feels in the valley is mirrored in the narrow set of characters and locations that he visits.
I also found the reveal a bit frustrating. The killer isn't obvious, and I'm glad of that, but the motive isn't clear, either. There's a crucial dynamic between the killer and a victim that is critical to the plot but is never explained. Certain things can be inferred, of course, but it's a bit frustrating, particularly when, after Rutledge discovers who the killer is, and he thinks that another investigator, "digging into the past," would have found something out. But there's no indication of what was in the killer's past that would have revealed his culpability. It's not a cheap resolution to the mystery, just an incomplete one....more