Secondary English

The Power of Mystery in History

By Mike Gould

When I was offered the chance to write The Body in the Car Park for Read On I jumped at it. My fascination with Richard III goes back many years, beginning in childhood when I first heard about the mysterious disappearance of Richard’s nephews, the two princes. My interest in the subject increased when I read Josephine Tey’s wonderful novel The Daughter of Time, in which a detective investigates for himself whether or not Richard was the culprit in the murder of the boys. A mystery worth reading – I will leave it to you to see what conclusions he draws!

I was helped enormously in writing the Read On book by my son, Sam, who is a recent History graduate specialising in the medieval era, so he was an ideal sounding-board. It was important to both of us that, insofar as possible, we were able to get across the complexity of unlocking the facts surrounding Richard’s death and burial, and yet make his story accessible and engaging to struggling or uninterested readers. With Richard’s mystery-shrouded life, this is doubly difficult given that much of what we think we know of him comes from Shakespeare, the greatest story-teller of them all!

Approaching the portrayal of Richard’s story as an ‘investigation’ into a ‘true mystery’ of sorts helped us achieve a tone in the book of wonder and curiosity – a good starting point to draw readers in to learning.

Historical mysteries are naturally exciting. They provide a wonderful launching pad for all sorts of rich literacy work in the classroom. Students can research the locations in which these real people lived and died, take on the roles of characters from the past and speculate about the mysterious events that surround them. Hypothesis and historical fact can be synthesised to create new stories and narratives.

In the Read On library, Keith West’s Unsolved Mysteries, like The Body in the Car Park, contains real-life stories that provide the ideal launch-pad for students’ own writing. Great mysteries often raise the question: ‘What if I had been there when …?’ and this is a perfect place for students to start creating their own narratives.

Free for your classroom

Download a free writing resource:I was there_Writing Activity‘ for use alongside reading The Body in the Car Park.


Mike Gould has written over 150 books for students and teachers, including plays, stories and the occasional poem. He lives in Sussex and divides his time between writing, being taken for a walk by his dog Freddie, and trying out his ideas on his three children and wife who pretend to find them interesting. His favourite novels are Bleak House by Charles Dickens and SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. He’s quite partial to poems about animals, nature and bad weather.



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