"In order for a mystery novel to find a truly permanent place on my bookshelves, it has to be utterly unique, cleverly plotted, and influential."
Pictured L-R: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
While most of the books I read these days are either thrillers or nonfiction scientific treatises of one sort or another (an occupational hazard), I’m also a loyal fan of mysteries. As a youth, I devoured the work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Jacques Futrelle, and (no surprise) Arthur Conan Doyle. I also greatly enjoyed the canonical “locked room” stories of John Dickson Carr.
In order for a mystery novel to find a truly permanent place on my bookshelves, it has to be utterly unique, cleverly plotted, and influential. One book which meets all these criteria, and to me remains fresh despite being well over half a century old, is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
The Daughter of Time is a fascinating mystery for several reasons. It takes place in a hospital bed, where a Scotland Yard detective is recovering from an accident and going stir-crazy with boredom. As he recuperates, he becomes increasingly obsessed with King Richard III. Was he really the vicious murderer history has painted him, the mastermind behind the killing of the princes in the tower? Or was he victim of a deep and devious plot?
From his bed, the detective undertakes what is, in essence, a murder investigation into the distant past—and the conclusions he arrives at are fascinating not only for their persuasiveness, but for what they have to say about the nature of truth and the evolution—or manipulation—of historical “fact.”
Connoisseurs of such fiction may already be nodding their heads and smiling in fond reminiscence. But if you’re a fan of mysteries and this title is new to you, I recommend it without reservation.
Author Website: www.prestonchild.com
This "Writers on Reading" essay was originally published in "At the Scene" eNews November 2012 as a first-look exclusive to our enewsletter subscribers. For more special content available first to our enewsletter subscribers, sign up here.