The Consequence of Coincidences –
A guest post by Julia Redlich
We welcome Julia Redlich to Dottie Tales, who tells us in today’s guest post about finding Richard III as a Consequence of Coincidences.
This is not just a coincidence, but having written a recent contribution to the Richard III NSW Branch website called Not Looking for Richard, this is just a natural consequence. The first feature dealt with finding mention of King Richard in unexpected novels and the pleasure derived from discovering authors who viewed him as a human being, not necessarily a villain.
I particularly referred to the Inspector Lynley novels by American author Elizabeth George, a self-confessed supporter of the last Plantagenet king. My fellow Ricardians delight in searching for the mentions in each new book such as these:
In Well-Schooled in Murder, Sergeant Barbara Havers asks Lynley why the statue of Henry VII outside a school faces north, not south, towards the school entry.
“He wants us to remember his moment of glory. So he’s looking to the north, in the direction of Bosworth Field.”
“Ah. Death and treachery. The end of Richard III. Why does it always slip my mind that you’re a Yorkist … Do you spit on Henry’s tomb whenever you get the chance to slip down to the Abbey?”
He smiled. “Religiously. It’s one of my rare pleasures.”
And in Missing Joseph, Lynley speaks to Deborah and Simon St James about the power of tourism: “Don’t people pay to see the Queen of Scots death mask?”
“Not to mention the grimmer spots of the Tower London,” St James said.
“Why bother with the Crown Jewels when you can see a chopping block?” Lynley added. “Crime doesn’t pay, but death brings them running with a few quid.”
“Is this irony from the man who’s made at least five personal pilgrimages to Bosworth Field on the twenty-second of August?” Deborah asked blithely. “… where you drink from the well and swear to Richard’s ghost that you would have fought for the Yorks?”
“That’s not death,” Lynley said with some dignity, lifting his glass to salute her. “That’s history, my girl. Someone’s got to be willing to set the record straight.”
Recently, in New Zealand for the biennial Australasian Richard III Society convention, I found time to cross to the nearby mall and pursue my hobby of investigating bookshops. And there displayed at the very front of one was A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George. A quick survey of the back cover revealed that two inexplicable deaths have taken place – the suicide of a young man called William in Dorset, and a disturbing poisoning in Cambridge.
Dorset: my home county: will it feature places I know so well? Cambridge: – surely Lynley will investigate this death since his interest in King Richard will take him to Queen’s College, so splendidly supported by the king and his queen?
A must-buy indeed. The money was handed over, but I found no time to read it until on the plane back to Sydney the following morning. Snugly seated over the Tasman, I opened the book at random – and there was the reference I sought!
A literary agent is being advised that the advance offered to her client cannot be increased. While the discovery of the body of Richard the Third in a Leicester carpark did indeed shine a spotlight on that controversial king, it was not likely that yet another book on the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower –
Much later in the book, the rejected author is determined that the Princes will always be of interest, and this is very true considering the new quest to discover the answer to the age-old mystery.
So the author is still connected to Richard – and it is always worth remembering her theory about the Princes in The Evidence Exposed, a collection of three novellas in which one – I, Richard – tells not only of a possible solution, but also a possible villain.
Now, how did I feel after tasting this banquet of a book? It held me enthralled and was almost impossible to put down. Just as it is almost impossible to tell anyone anything about the plot. I make no apologies for this, because it is a challenging story that grips the reader up to and beyond the solution.
Lynley is there, of course, not yet fully come to terms with the tragic loss of Helen, and in conflict with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery over his support for Barbara Havers, who is trying to redeem herself under threat of demotion.
Barbara, with DS Winston Skata to watch her every step, is sent to Dorset to probe any connection between the William’s family and the best-selling author who has died so horribly in Cambridge.
And oh, what a tangled web is woven. There is a wealth of back history, a whole heap of suspects and some intriguing characters. The skill shown in the interweaving of relationships highlights George’s exceptional ability to sustain the suspense until the mysteries are unravelled.
Anything adverse? One item concerned me. Barbara visits Cerne Abbas to question some interested parties at the Royal Oak Inn, where the sign outside bears a portrait of Charles I who apparently hid in an oak tree to escape ruthless Roundheads. Now this cannot be so! My mother’s family comes from Cerne Abbas and I love its history. Charles I never escaped the Roundheads. In fact, a useful book about my father’s family reveals that one of them escorted Charles I to the scaffold. (I was mortified at the age of 10 when I learned about this from my grandfather; I had always imagined we were Cavaliers because I loved the lace collars and flowing wigs. I never considered the wigs’ cleanliness or possibility of insect life.)
No, it was the young Charles II who, after defeat at the Battle of Worcester on June 6 1651, was forced to flee and make for safety in Europe. He and his companions made their way through Shropshire to Boscobel House. There he and one of his officers climbed into a great oak tree set apart from the house where they had a view in all directions from the thick bushy leaves hiding them. They saw Roundhead soldiers searching the wood, but were undetected. Disguised as a local (apparently he was an excellent mimic and his accent sounded authentic), he was helped by the loyal Penderell family on his way to the coast and safety until the Restoration some five years later.
This, of course is a personal quibble and should not deter anyone from adding the latest Lynley to their must-read list. I can promise you it is a richly fulfilling banquet of detection, characters, mystery and, as always, wonderful writing.
A Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015, $34.99. ISBN 9781444 786576 9
The Evidence Exposed, by Elizabeth George, Hodder & Stoughton 1999. ISBN 0 34 075 063 0
Well-Schooled in Murder, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, 1990. ISBN 0 553 401 167
Missing Joseph, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, 1993. ISBN 0 553 402 382