Josephine Tey
July 1, 2011 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Someone used to great responsibility, and responsible in his authority. Someone too-conscientious...He had that incommunicable, that indescribable look that childhood suffering leaves behind it; less positive than the look on a cripple’s face, but as inescapable. This the artist had both understood and translated into terms of paint...He turned the portrait over to look for a caption. On the back was printed: Richard the Third.
From Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, "a book of singular originality, ingenuity and humanity" often cited as one of the best of all mystery novels. posted by Iridic (31 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I discovered Josephine Tey a couple of years ago and quickly devoured all of her books on my Kindle. Highly recommended if you like the Dorothy Sayers style of mystery.
posted by peacheater at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2011

Oh, thanks for reminding me about her! I loved The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair and am looking forward to the rest. Great timing just before my vacation!
posted by theredpen at 10:09 AM on July 1, 2011

I love, love love her books.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2011

I love her books a great deal, although they are, of course, dated. (See: evil and dead lesbians in Miss Pym Disposes, for one, which I otherwise liked a lot.) She is a terrific writer, although Daughter of Time is not, at all, a typical mystery: the detective from many of her other books, Inspector Grant, is laid up in hospital with an injury and becomes obsessed with "investigating" (via history books) the murders of the Princes in the Tower with the aim of "proving" Richard III innocent; it's not quite a historical, not quite non-fiction, but certainly interesting.
posted by lysimache at 10:16 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really love The Daughter of Time, though I've never read any of her other books. I think the fact that it's set in one room (as lysimache commented) is one of its strengths. It's like The Edge of Destruction from Doctor Who.
posted by hoyland at 10:28 AM on July 1, 2011

Yay, Tey!

I've been meaning to read The Franchise Affair, and here it is.

In ePub format. Which my Kindle won't read. But never fear! Calibre to the rescue!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:37 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

BitterOldPunk: You can also save the HTML for some of these and use the "Personal Document" Kindle service and email the HTML to your Kindle device. I think the formatting might need a little tweaking, though. It's not full justified.
posted by theredpen at 10:42 AM on July 1, 2011

Kindle formatted files are available at the Mobile Read forums, which is where I got them from.
posted by peacheater at 10:47 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

For our friends in Australia, her entire output is on Gutenberg Australia.

However, no one from the us may download them from there, because that would be wrong.
posted by winna at 10:48 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My edition has a good intro by Robert Barnard. I would rate this work one of the top 5 if not 3 fictional mysteries ever written.

I love this part:

"Perhaps there was something in Laura's theory that human nature found it difficult to give up preconceived beliefs. That there was some vauge inward oppostion to, and resentment of, a reversal of accepted fact. -TDOT, pg.173
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on July 1, 2011

Iridic, thanks for posting this and the other links.
posted by clavdivs at 10:55 AM on July 1, 2011

Don't listen to me; listen to peacheater.
posted by theredpen at 10:57 AM on July 1, 2011

Kindle formatted files are available at the Mobile Read forums, which is where I got them from.

Aha! Saves a couple of steps. Thanks, peacheater!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:07 AM on July 1, 2011

Yes, Tey is dated but awesome. I had all her books in Penguin paperbacks -- with gorgeous covers -- years ago, but after a few moves and various household upsets, most are gone. Off to get the ebooks!
posted by maudlin at 11:50 AM on July 1, 2011

Ngaio Marsh is another good one to try if Tey and Sayers scratch your itch.
posted by jrochest at 11:53 AM on July 1, 2011

I've only read Daughter of Time, and love it. Time to read the rest.
(Find myself muttering "Tonypandy!" sometimes, to my surprise)
posted by doctornemo at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

this is a good post; thank you.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on July 1, 2011

Tey is great. Her mysteries are very different from one another. To Love and Be Wise, for instance, is comedy with Shakespearian referents. Miss Pym Disposes is satire. Brat Farrar is a romantic novel turned inside out. Tey's detective, Inspector Grant, is sometimes a central character, other times a background figure. Occasionally Grant is a Great Detective but often he is befuddled. He is hospitalized in Daughter of Time, of course, and, in The Singing Sands, he attempts to recover his mental health.
Tey also wrote plays and drama was probably more important to her than fiction, but what wonderful books she wrote!
posted by CCBC at 1:52 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh oh I am very excited about this! I love Sayers and Marsh, and am currently tired of all my books and unwilling to buckle down for Infinite Jest. And the county library has all her books! Yay! Thank you!
posted by Kpele at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2011

I loved this book. She could sure write. And I love this informative post.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to find out after readiing it that her case for Richard III is probably way overstated. Apparently he was far from a good guy though not the monster his enemies and Shakespeare later painted him.
posted by bearwife at 2:33 PM on July 1, 2011

I read Daughter of Time when I was about ten and then had an unabridged tape version that I listened to over and over. I can still recite bits now, or hear them in the reader's voice. It's a wonderful book.

I've never seen or read any of Tey's / Mackintosh's plays (I love the way she bigs up her own play, Richard of Bordeaux, in DoT) - has anyone else? Any good?

Agree about the nasty lesbian thing in Miss Pym Disposes. Also, that's an otherwise odd and unpleasant book.

There are several books related to Tey people might enjoy, if they haven't already come across them.

- Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree references Brat Farrar. Link is a review with spoilers.
- Elizabeth Peters's mystery The Murders of Richard III (can't find a good link).
- and the mysteries by Nicola Upson in wch Tey is the detective. It's an odd conceit, and I didn't like the second book at all (haven't read the first), but the third was very good, I thought. There's a review of the first two here. Interesting sexuality stuff going on in these books too, counteracting the Miss Pym issue.
posted by paduasoy at 3:27 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I admire Tey as a writer, but the snobbery and the right-wing politics are off-putting. The funniest piece of snobbery is in A Shilling for Candles where Grant, the detective, has to check Lord Champnies's alibi. He can't ask Lord Champnies about it, because then (I quote) 'he would look incredulously at Grant, and Grant would feel the world's prize fool'. This would never do, so Grant has to spend days painstakingly checking the alibi without giving Lord Champneis a moment's unease.

As for the right-wing politics, see The Franchise Affair, where Tey seems to have a bee in her bonnet about liberal do-gooders who are soft on crime. Tey's own view, as expressed through her characters, is that it's nonsense to suppose that criminals can be reformed ('You might as well talk of reforming the colour of one’s eyes'). Her preferred solution to the problem of crime is 'deportation to a penal colony':

An island community where everyone worked hard. This was not a reform for the benefit of the prisoners. It would be a nicer life for the warders, Kevin said; and would leave more room in this crowded island for good citizens’ houses and gardens; and since most criminals hated hard work more than they hated anything in this world, it would be a better deterrent than the present plan which, in Kevin’s estimation, was no more punitive than a third-rate public school.
posted by verstegan at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2011

That said, I don't mean to suggest that The Franchise Affair is a bad novel; in fact I think it's the most interesting and disturbing of Tey's novels, partly because it's about a public witch-hunt but also because it has a strong element of sado-masochism. The plot revolves around an accusation that two maiden ladies have kidnapped, imprisoned and beaten a sixteen-year-old girl. This accusation is eventually shown to be false, but what's striking is how many of the characters in the novel, even the sympathetic characters, express their feelings in terms of whipping and beating. ('I could kill that girl; I could kill her. My God, I could torture her twice a day for a year and then begin again on New Year’s Day. When I think what she has done to us ..') To hazard a psychoanalytic interpretation: it's as though the author's own repressed desire is to whip young girls, and the aim of the novel is to work round to a point where this repressed desire can be openly expressed.
posted by verstegan at 5:22 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

So, wait. Best of all mystery novels? I've never heard of these and I'm sure they're great, but what are we comparing? What about things like The Moonstone and so on - are those "detective" novels, not "mystery"? I'm curious about these genres, because I read very little of what they contain.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:00 PM on July 1, 2011

The audiobook of Daughter of Time is pretty good, although Jacobi's American accent when he's doing Brent Carradine's parts is a little... um. (Love ya, Sir Derek.)
posted by Lexica at 9:23 PM on July 1, 2011

Oh yes, absolutely some of the views are dodge. In TFA and in one of the others too I think Grant suggests seriously that all people with pale-blue eyes set wide-apart are criminals. That's one of the reasons the Nicola Upson books are interesting, as she gives Tey much more complex views than come across in the novels themselves.
posted by paduasoy at 2:40 AM on July 2, 2011

Thank you, I'm looking forward to reading this. I started Miss Pym before and just couldn't get into it, but this one I liked right away.
posted by Melsky at 3:16 AM on July 2, 2011

I'm a chapter into The Daughter of Time, and I stumbled over the following chunk of text when then final sentence stopped abruptly.

'Go into one of the bookshops and buy me a History of England. An adult one. And a Life of Richard III, if you can find one.' 'Sure, I'll do that.' As he was going out he encountered The Amazon.

I think I was expecting the last sentence to continue on as something like The Amazon Kindle Store's recommended list of English history books....
posted by compound eye at 4:39 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tey's own view, as expressed through her characters,

She was certainly something of an odd duck, but as a general rule, one should never assume anything about an author's personal opinions based on what their characters do or say. They may coincide, they may not.

A potted biography of Tey is available here

(Coincidentally, picked up The Last Days of Richard III just yesterday. Appears interesting, for all those Ricardians out there.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:24 AM on July 2, 2011

Thanks so much for posting this. I read Daughter of Time when I was around 10 and loved it, and then a few years ago picked up a Tey anthology at a thrift store (Brat Farrar, the Franchise Affair, and Ms. Pym Disposes) and devoured it. Plainly time to dig it out again...
posted by Cocodrillo at 1:05 PM on July 2, 2011

I just picked 'Daughter of Time' up from the library, which gives me the excuse to mention that the first time I read it, I was very confused by the title and kept waiting for the female time traveller to show up.
posted by bq at 1:35 PM on July 8, 2011

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