This is a book that surprised me. It’s a short novel and it’s about whether Richard the Third deserved to be condemned for his actions. What surprised me was that I have no interest in any of her other books.
If I like an author, I don’t need to love all their work, but it’s unusual for me to only read one book in an author’s whole work.
Josephine Tey writes crime novels and according to her bio on Amazon, She began to write full-time after the successful publication of her first novel, The Man in the Queue (1929), which introduced Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard. In 1937 she returned to crime writing with A Shilling for Candles, but it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the majority of her crime novels were published.
The problem for me is that her other work is very much of her time in the early part of her career. It’s not that I don’t like books from that period – love P.G. Wodehouse for instance – but it’s that the work is dated.
It was written in 1951, so the style is more modern – yeah, I know it’s still really old – and seems to have a timeless pace. The structure is more familiar, perhaps. It’s not an action thriller and the mystery is hundreds of years old. Somehow she makes it important – vital- to know whether the history is likely to be true. Evidence piles up, but most of it is from research. Our protagonist is bedridden and sends an assistant off to answer questions.
The hook – caution slight spoilers
The fact that history is written by the victors is an eternal truth. By exploring the questions behind Richard III’s horrible history, Josephine Tey is speaking to the latest political scandal. When we read that Richard was probably the real heir to the throne, the accusations that he executed the princes rings hollow. When we realize his main accuser had personal reasons to question Richard’s actions – do we kid ourselves that we would be smart enough not to fall for the such a clear underhanded tactic?
For me the story is timeless because human behavior is unchanging. History continues to be written by the victor – and the side that thinks it’s victorious.
So, do you have authors that have only one book you love of their entire work? Or are there books that surprised you at their timelessness?