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In this novel two teenage girls living 80 years apart, both of whom have suffered for having royal blood, try to solve the mystery of the "Princes in the Tower" ...

As a work of fiction in which the characters try to resolve one of the great unsolved mysteries of real history, "A Dangerous Inheritance" bears serious comparison with Josephine Tey's classic "The Daughter Of Time." Both are excellent novels in which the main characters are trying to discover what happened to the former Edward V and his brother, Richard Duke of York, who are last known to have been alive when they were imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1483.

In Josephine Tey's story the fictional detective was trying to solve the mystery in her own mid 20th-century era, and challenging the prevailing view among historians. By comparison in this novel one of the amateur detectives is a contemporary of the Princes and can seek out first hand accounts from witnesses, and the other, living at the point when their death is just about to pass from living memory to history, can seek out second hand information from people who knew witnesses. And both have a problem Tey's character Inspector Grant did not, that the mystery they are trying to solve is recent enough, and still politically significant enough, for their investigations to draw attention from those currently in power.

One clever irony in this book is that the two heroines are descended respectively from Richard III and Henry VII, the two main suspects who have been put forward as the culprit for the murders of the boys.

The first heroine of this book is Katherine Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III, who starts to investigate what really happened to the boys partly because she hopes to prove that the father she loved had been innocent of the crime, partly because she desperately wants to know the truth.

The second heroine is Lady Katherine Grey, sister of the tragic Lady Jane Grey and grand-daughter of Henry VIII's sister. In real history, Lady Katherine Grey was briefly married to a relative of the earl to whom Richard III married his daughter Katherine. In this novel, during that marriage Lady Katherine Grey finds a set of notes left by Katherine Plantaganet a lifetime before, detailing her attempt to solve the riddle of the princes. A few years later Katherine Grey was imprisoned in the Tower of London herself after disobeying Queen Elizabeth by marrying again in secret, and in this novel while in the tower she becomes fascinated with the story of the Princes and starts her own search to find the truth.

Both the heroines of this book are real historical figures whose lives were full of tragedy and found their royal blood to be a terrible curse, making them close enough to the throne to be a threat. Both lost people they loved in battle, on the executioner's block, or both. In the story, and certainly in the real life of at least one of the characters, these women were forcibly and cruelly separated from men they loved because their marriages could have affected the balance of power.

The author had written a serious history book about "The Princes In The Tower" in 1992, but this novel gives the impression of re-examining the evidence with an open mind. For the majority of "A Dangerous Inheritance" I was in some doubt whether the outcome of this work of fiction would line up with the conclusions Alison Weir had reached twenty years before in her non-fiction work. (I'm not going to spoil the ending by saying whether it does.)

This is quite a substantial book - 509 pages including the afterword in which the author explains the comparatively few liberties she has taken with history and which parts of the book are speculation or fiction. In particular we know quite a lot about the life of Lady Katherine Grey, and her life in this novel is to a considerable extent based on real history, but there is very little surviving information about Katherine Plantagenet, so her life in this novel is largely fiction and supposition.

The story covers a wide range of material, both about the events the heroines lived through and in that during the course of the story the heroines meet or gain access to many of the witnesses or chronicles and much of the real source material which is available to hint at what might have actually happened to the Princes in the Tower.

There is one minor but irritating error of anachronistic language in this book which happens to be a particular bete noir of mine, a trap usually fallen into by writers of Regency Romances who don't have a tenth the knowledge of history that Alison Weir does. One particular invading army during the Wars of the Roses is described as having come ashore on the coast of "Cumbria."

Alison, really! The present day county of Cumbria was created by Peter Walker in the 1970s. Before that, and certainly at the time of this book, most of the coastline of what is now Cumbria was part of the historic county of Cumberland, though the coast from Barrow-in-Furness and Grange-over-Sands to Morecombe Bay was then part of Lancashire.

Overall I can strongly recommend this both as a work of fiction, and as a very informative book about what this important and often cruel period of English history was like.
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on 11 May 2014
A Dangerous Inheritance

To combine the mystery surrounding the death of King Edward V and his younger brother, and heir presumptive, the Duke of York (aka the `Princes in the Tower') with the nearly equally fascinating, `Queen that never was' Katherine Grey is just too tantalising for words. And to throw in a princess we didn't know about, Kate, the illegitimate daughter of the notorious Richard III - and to link all three together - is just clever and fascinating beyond words. Could the book live up to it? It certainly did.

Alison Weir has written separately about Lady Jane Grey and about the Princes in the Tower so her research is extensive and painstaking and she admits to any fictional interpretations she uses although they do not in any way distract from the sadness of these very unfortunate women's lives. These women were quite literally imprisoned for being too close to the throne in exactly the same way Edward V and his younger brother had been.

Weir presents all the evidence of what is known about the disappearance of the boys and neatly gives two theories - one the far more accepted and acceptable theory that their uncle killed them in order to be able to usurp the throne and keep himself safe from what would happen when the boys inevitably grew and wanted their birth-right. And she includes another tenuous theory presumably to please the conspiracy theorists who are unable to accept that Richard III was a child-killer and usurper.

However, I digress - the evidence is compelling and although nothing `new' is presented - even the greatly hyped up `evidence` of Elizabeth Savage but it is fascinating that even in the reign of Elizabeth I, talking about the Princes still brings fear to those involved and it is particularly fascinating that talking about them even close to the time of their deaths was considered treasonous.

I felt deeply sorry for Katherine Grey and Kate Plantagenet - as their lives were so painfully similar and so well told by Alison Weir - and found myself liking Henry VII and Elizabeth I a lot less than I had before. (Elizabeth is a very lucky woman to have been judged so well by history as she comes across frequently as foolish and cruel). Henry VII of course comes out of this as very clever but also cruel and I loved Weir's description of him as being like an 'accountant' - surely no greater put down for a man who hoped to shape destiny.
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on 13 July 2017
Not very impressed by this particular novel, it seemed to me that all the main protagonists were particularly naive, and very silly. The author appeared to endorse every calumly directed against RIII, which is unlikely to be the case, and ignored the love expressed by the common people of him. Very unhistorical effort.
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on 3 March 2017
Long and involved, a confusing read, but for fans of historical fiction it's brilliant
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on 30 January 2014
As a massive fan of Weir, I could not put this book down. It is full of surprises and shocks, and will bring all different reactions out of you. The book sucks you and makes you feel protective and friendly towards its character!
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on 28 May 2017
A very good read. Alison weir kept to her usual high standard. Wanted it to go on forever.
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on 20 June 2014
I gave this book 5 stars as it was a compelling read. the fate of the prince's in the tower will force ever be a mystery. perhaps their remains will be found one day.
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on 2 March 2017
Thanks
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on 6 February 2014
I like Alison Weir her novels are always interesting and well written, this was as usual and I couldn't put it down.
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on 10 June 2014
Loved this book, couldn't put it down. Alison Weir always delivers, she understands the periods and makes it easy to imagine yourself there.
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