When a mystery novel by a popular author makes it into the scholarly world as a source for Richard III (this happened with Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey in Cliff Notes) the reader knows he's onto something very special. A London detective, hospitalized with a broken leg, is helped out of his boredom by a friend who brings him portraits of famous, unidentified people and challenges him to define the character just from the portrait. Having always prided himself on his ability to "read" the faces he encounters in his real world, he accepts the challenge, only to find that he has classed Richard III as a good, generous, kindly judge, rather than the killer of his two helpless nephews in the Tower of London, in order to claim the throne. This starts him out, with the help of a young American researcher who brings him books and references from the British Library, on a detective search to prove Richard innocent of the crime which Shakespeare fastened to his name for all time. Any history lover will exult in this book. It challenges as well as entertains.
This story takes the classic change-of-identity plot and turns it on its head. Set on a horse farm in the English Midlands, Brat Farrar takes full advantage of the beautiful scenery and a family of wonderfully individual characters, with a tragic mystery in its past and a warm and human faith in a future. Sounds sappy, but it carries the reader along, revealing the hidden facts and surprising us all in the process. Simply a lovely, lovely book which makes this reader, at least, wish I had been part of the Ashby family.
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