The Daughter Of Time

A review of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Richard III has had a bad press through the centuries, characterised as a hunchback, suffering the indignity of being buried under a Leicester car park, although the car park came after the burial, and accused of the murder of the two princes in the Tower of London. Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, the fifth in her Alan Grant series, originally published in 1951, is an ingenious attempt to rehabilitate his reputation. It is a book that was ranked number one in the Crime Writers’ Association’s top one hundred crime novels of all time. Some accolade.

Grant of the Yard is condemned to a long stay in hospital, recovering from leg and back injuries. To prevent him from growing too bored, an actress friend presents him with a series of portraits of historical characters, each of whom is associated with a mystery. His sleuthing instincts aroused, Grant decides to investigate the story of Richard III and whether he really did murder the princes in the Tower. He is helped in his endeavours by an American amateur researcher, Brett Carradine, who does the legwork, combing through historical records to find vital clues that might have a bearing on the case.

For some unaccountable reason the history of the Tudors is a well-travelled literary path, but Tey cleverly shines the spotlight on an event that trashed the reputation of the Plantagenets and made Henry VII’s undoubted usurpation of the throne more palatable to the English.

Using a combination of Grant’s deductive training and Carradine’s in-depth trawl through the records, the sleuth quickly determines that the allegations against Richard are based on hearsay, rumour and later accounts written by supporters of the Tudors to justify their ascension to the throne. Grant also believes, looking at the portrait, that Richard’s face is not one of a murderer but rather that of a kind, compassionate man.

Tey builds up a compelling case in favour of the last Plantagenet king, arguing that he had nothing to gain from the princes’ deaths unlike Henry VII who needed all potential claimants to throne out of the way, that Thomas More was little more than a Tudor apologist, that no contemporary capital was made of the allegations against Richard III who was forgiven by the boys’ mother and that there were no contemporary reports of the boys’ deaths. Historians with a detailed knowledge of the period might profoundly disagree with her thesis and some arguments seem stronger than others, but as well as being an intriguing analysis of a notorious historical event, Tey’s book played a not insignificant part in the movement to rehabilitate Richard III’s reputation.

It is a deceptively simple story but one which sucks the reader in, forces them to think and reconsider their pre-existing prejudices. The sense of disappointment at the end when Carradine reports that he has found later histories detailing the events which exonerate Richard is genuinely moving. They are not the trailblazers they perhaps they thought they were but, nonetheless, the intellectual exercise was perfect therapy for a detective of the Yard lying on his back with nothing else to do.

I enjoyed it immensely and it deserves its reputation as one of the great detective stories.

The China Governess

A review of The China Governess by Margery Allingham

The seventeenth in Allingham’s long-running Albert Campion series, The China Governess was originally published in 1962, four years before her death, and is frankly not a patch on her earlier works. She is a fine writer, but her problems stem from a rather thin plot which would not be out of place in a Trollope or Patricia Wentworth novel, a young man’s search for his true identity, the revelation of which might or might not scupper his plans to marry his fiancé

The man in question is Tim Kinnit, a bright young thing who has done well at Oxford, and now wants to marry the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Julia, but her father wants to know more about his background. It turns out that he has been adopted, having been rescued from the roughest slum in London, Turk Street Mile, during the evacuation in anticipation of the Blitz. He was either separated from or abandoned by his mother and taken under the wings of the Kinnits, and specifically the larger-than-life character, Nanny Broome, the only character who really comes to life in this saga.

The Kinnits have a record of brushing uncomfortable truths under the carpet, starting with a famous murderess, Miss Thyrza, the eponymous China governess who a century earlier was convicted of a murder. A governess in the Kinnit household, she was immortalised in a china model, one of a series of famous murderers, and her biography was bought up by the leader of the Kinnit clan. It emerges, though, that the story behind the murder is more complicated than it seems and puts another dark stain on the family.

Relics from the past, the Kinnits struggle to come to terms with the new order following the end of the Second World War. Without their accustomed domestic help, they have to fend for themselves and solve the problem of feeding themselves by ordering meals from the local pub.

What is noticeable in this later Allingham novel is that there is a greater sense of realism than I have encountered hitherto. This is evident in the opening chapter which introduces to the hell hole that was Turk Mile Street. It has been razed to the ground, thanks to a combination of the Luftwaffe and London developers, and some shiny “luxury” apartment blocks have sprung up, thanks in no small measure to Councillor Cornish who was horrified by the conditions in the slums. One of the new flats occupied by a harmless old couple has been trashed in what seems a senseless act of vandalism and the shock of the attack results in the wife suffering a fatal stroke.

The couple had a mysterious tenant, who turns out to be one of the Stalkey brothers, a firm of private detectives who have been employed by the Kinnits to establish the truth behind Tim’s origins and adoption. The vandal bears an uncanny resemblance to Tim and as he continues his trail of destruction, Tim finds himself in hot water with the authorities. Julia, who for some reason is still determined to win her beau, employs the services of Campion and Inspector Charlie Luke to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Campion’s role is minor and subdued with Luke making most of the running in resolving a mystery involving a tangled web of error, deceit, greed, and ambition. It is as though Allingham has got bored with him and his crew, Lugg only makes a cameo appearance, and that the forthright cockney copper makes for a livelier hero, more in tune with the times. The most amazing transformation in the story is that of Councillor Cornish who starts off as a bumptious, arrogant man but has become a complex, tragic, sympathetic character by the end.

If you have not read Allingham’s Campion stories before, this is not the one to begin with. Sadly, Campion’s and Allingham’s time is almost up.

A Slice Of Pork Pie

A staple of the picnic hamper, a satisfying meal on its own, portable, and a perfect accompaniment to a salad, the pork pie is firmly established as one of Britain’s favourite pies. We spend more than £165 million a year on them, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Familiar fare it might be, but the pork pie had a long, fascinating and, at times, contentious history.

An early version of the pork pie appears in De Re Coquinaria, a collection of recipes attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmand living in the first century AD. The ham was boiled with dried figs and three bay leaves. After removing the skin, making diagonal incisions into the meat, and pouring honey over it, it was wrapped in a dough made from oil and flour and served when the dough was cooked (Book VII, IX).

Our forefathers in the Middle Ages were pie enthusiasts. Ominously, pies were known as “cofyns”, a term probably derived from the coffin-like casement of pastry complete with lid, but also, surely, a knowing acknowledgement that what was inside was not always of the finest quality. The Forme of Cury (1390) contains a recipe for mylates of pork (XX.VII.XV), a quasi-pork pie with elements of a quiche. The pork was ground, “hewe pork al to pecys”, and mixed with cheese and eggs and seasoned with spices and saffron, cheese and eggs, and then cooked in a pastry shell.

It took such a long time to cook the dish that the pastry crusts were rock hard, leading some to wonder whether they were discarded rather than eaten. So integral, though, were they to the recipe that it would seem strange to throw them away. Hannah Glasse’s influential The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747), a compendium of 942 recipes, included one for the Cheshire pork pie, a rich and slightly sickly concoction of layers of pork loin and apple, sweetened with sugar and mixed with half a pint of white wine.

Whether this pork pie was a delicacy particular to Cheshire is not clear, but the Melton Mowbray pork pie is incontrovertibly associated with the Leicestershire town. Indeed, on April 4, 2008, it was awarded “protected designation of origin” (PDO) status by the European Commission, since converted, post Brexit, to “Designated Origin UK Protected” or “GI, Geographical Interest” mark. What this means is that only pies made within a designated zone around Melton, roughly ten miles in radius, and in accordance with the town’s traditional recipe can carry the Melton Mowbray name on their packaging.

Grey meat seasoned with salt and pepper, succulent jelly, and bowed walls are the hallmark of a Melton Mowbray pork pie. The meat used is fresh and uncured, which gives it its distinctive grey colouration, in contrast to pork pies made from cured pork, where the meat is pink. The hot water crust pastry is hand-raised which means that the warm dough is kneaded slightly until it is soft and smooth, then fitted around a bottle or wooden dolly, and “raised” by hand, starting from the base, and drawing it upwards to form the walls.

The course chopped pork, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, would then be put into the casing, sealed, and baked in the oven. Made originally without the use of baking hoops, the unsupported pie would sink and bow in the oven, giving it its distinctive shape. Whilst still hot, bone stock jelly was piped in to fill the airspaces within the pie to preserve the meat inside longer, sterilise the contents and give it more solidity, thus reducing the risk of it crumbling when carried.

Reward Of The Week

Should you expect a show of gratitude if you do the right thing or is sufficient, as it says in Matthew 5:12, to realise that great is your reward in heaven? Should there be a sliding scale between the value of the item lost and the amount the finder receives for returning to its rightful owner?

Someone who clearly believes that a reward should bear some relation to what is found is Anouar G from Frankfurt. He spotted a cheque on the railway platform made out in the favour of the sweet makers, Haribo, from the supermarket group, Rewe. The bank order was for the mouth-watering sum of €4,631,538.80.

Anouar reported his find to Haribo who advised him to destroy the cheque and to send photographic evidence that he had done so. These instructions Anouar duly carried out and a few days later, the grateful Haribo saw fit to reward him for his find, by sending him six packets of their sweets. Anouar was not impressed, but Haribo pointed out that this was their standard package that they send out as a thank you.

A moral conundrum, for sure.

Leak Of The Week (2)

Meanwhile in the real world of football, the game has been hit by a second urinegate scandal of the season. In early September Blackfield and Langley’s keeper, Connor Maseko, was sent off having been spotted by the referee leaving the field to take a leak in the hedge behind his goal, an incident thought to be a first in the FA Cup’s long history.

Last weekend in the FA Trophy tie between Warrington Town and Guiseley, the Wire’s goalkeeper, Tony Thompson, saw red after an opposition “fan” allegedly urinated in his water bottle, something he only discovered when he took a swig from it. Unsurprisingly, Thompson reacted adversely, throwing the bottle away into the crowd in disgust and, with some of his teammates, confronting the away team’s followers. After the kerfuffle, Thompson was shown red and reported that he had fallen out of love with the game. Warrington eventually lost 1-0.

Clearly there is a sponsorship opportunity for Lucozade who have recently pulled their sponsorship of bottles at the World Cup. Seriously, though, incidents like this leave a nasty taste in the mouth and are not welcome in the world of non-league football. Let’s hope Thompson recovers his love for the game.

Update: Guiseley have since announced that they have banned an individual. Anything less would be taking the piss..