The premise of this novel is so inherently flawed that the fact that it convinced me of Richard III’s innocence by the end is quite the achievement. Essentially a re-examining of the history of one of England’s most vilified regents, it begins because a bedridden Inspector Grant refuses to believe that such a “sensitive” face could possibly order the murder of his two young nephews. Compounding this entirely unreasonable supposition is the fact that the face is depicted not in a photo but in a court portrait commissioned in an era that Josephine Tey readily admits required flattery in order for the artist to survive (financially, at the very least.) Grant’s primary argument after this is the fact that there were nine other heirs between Richard and the throne, but Ms Tey conveniently forgets that the claim of any of the six women was legally weaker than of Richard and the few males left on that list, an injustice only recently rectified by the British parliament to implement the rights of primogeniture regardless of gender. All of this makes me look askance at Grant’s conviction rate: I certainly would not want this level of deduction applied to cases with real-world repercussions!
Fortunately for my sensibilities and the fictional world of crime-solving in which Grant usually operates, the rest of the arguments are sound, and I did very much enjoy Ms Tey’s acerbic observations as to what constitutes accepted historical fact (Tonypandy!) And yes, it was hard for me to differentiate between Grant’s voice and Ms Tey’s, as the novel is essentially a philosophical/historical argument dressed up in 1950s British police and hospital clothing. An entertaining read, definitely, and arguably the most popular vindication of Richard III in print, but one must get over some startlingly poor suppositions in order to get to that point.