I don’t often read books more than once, but lately re-enjoyed one I’d read years ago.
A detective, Alan Grant, is convalescing in hospital and is bored. A friend suggests that he puts his skills to work on a historical crime. Grant selects Richard III and the question of whether or not he murdered the princes in the Tower.
With friends doing any actual legwork, Grant reassesses the evidence and comes to the conclusion that Richard has suffered from a bad press and was probably not as evil as history (and Shakespeare) has painted him.
I think that today there’s enough doubt about Richard’s wickedness for most people to regard him as possibly maligned. But this is a recent happening and he has been held up as an example of evil for centuries.
As a revelation of the effect of ‘PR’ this book is shocking. Those who get to write history (not Richard who died before he could write his version) get the last word and can condemn someone to be blamed for something horrible that they never did. I doubt if Richard III’s reputation is the only one that has come down to us distorted, and it certainly won’t be the last.
As a work of scholarship the book is light and easy to read but appears to be historically accurate. As a detective story it works well with several suspects and an satisfying ending. Would that all history books were so easy to read.
I think I can safely say this is one of my all-time favourites and I may well read it again sometime.
Cover art from Goodreads.