by Josephine Tey
First Published in 1949
Audio book narrated by Carole Boyd
Dear FCC: I’d heard of this book for a long time, but had never read it. Then Audible.com offered it as a Daily Deal for a substantial discount, so I bought a copy to listen to, and I’m so glad I did.
Logline from product description: “What begins as a ploy to claim an inheritance ends with the impostor’s life hanging in the balance.”
Brat Farrar bears an astonishing resemblance to the Ashby family of Latchetts estate near the south coast of England. They are preparing to celebrate the 21st birthday of heir Simon, whose elder twin brother committed suicide eight years ago at the age of 13.
Then we meet Brat (aka Bartholomew Farrell) an English orphan newly arrived home from the US. While strolling the streets of London, he is invited to lunch by a stranger, Alex Loding, nee Ledingham, an actor and black sheep who has an intimate knowledge of Ashby family affairs. Due to Brat’s uncanny resemblance to the Ashbys, Alex convinces him to pretend to be Patrick, whom they will say ran off rather than committing suicide. Brat almost does the right thing in saying no, until Alex mentions the Ashby horse farm. Brat is horse mad after spending time on a ranch in Texas. Though he has a moral compass, he succumbs to the temptation to be around prime English horse flesh. Alex coaches him on all things Ashby in return for Brat’s promise to share some of the inheritance with Alex.
What follows is a character study / mystery probing into the events of eight years ago that leads to a dramatic black moment. All is fully resolved at the end, of course.
I loved this book. Brat is a fascinating, three-dimensional character, and other than Simon, the Ashbys are charming, particularly the nine-year-old twins. The setting evokes a time and place that must have existed when the book was written, but seems quaint and idyllic to the modern reader. Except for the family secrets, of course.
My only criticism is that her time line really didn’t add up for the late 1940’s setting. I couldn’t figure out how some of the events in the past could have happened, given the history of WWII, but gave up trying to figure it out. It’s as if World War II never occurred other than one offhand comment late in the story. But that’s the history nerd in me. That one nitpick aside, I really loved this book.
As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in the Barrie Summy Book Review Club.
I love the first cover. The story sounds very interesting and I think I would like to get it. My only concern is that I hate books with cliffhangers that require you to buy the next book to see what happens and it sounds like that might be the case here. Is that the case?
Great review though! Thanks!
Lucy, I see the error now in using the word cliffhanger. I was referring to the dark moment, not the ending, which is fully resolved. There are no other books; it’s a standalone. I’ll re-word my review.
Tey is my favorite golden age writer. Love all of her books. THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR is my favorite.
I haven’t tried that one, Patti, but love THE DAUGHTER OF TIME.
Have a question for you. This is the second time I’ve seen a Dear FCC comment in a review. Is there something I should know about doing my book reviews? – Margy
Margy, a few years ago, the FCC tried to clamp down on reviewers who received free books and bloggers got in a snit and started adding Dear FCC disclaimers on their blogs. I don’t know if they’re even doing that any more.
Thanks. I have a generic disclaimer about not getting free items for review. Maybe that happened at the same time.
Probably. I have a generic disclaimer also, but still like the Dear FCC snark.
This only applies to US bloggers!
Good point, Jenn. The FCC garbage only applies to American bloggers, not to anyone else.
Sounds interesting indeed. But any hint of a scam or scammer these day makes me think of the White House and turns me cold or hot…:(
LOL, Ray. At least Brat is a somewhat reluctant scammer, and nothing in this book will remind you of Donald Trump. I think you’d be safe reading it.
I notice the audio version is $8.52, and I’m always looking for audio books… This author sounds really good. And I haven’t ready anything by her. Thanks for answering Margy’s question about the FCC. Like you, I’m not sure it’s a thing anymore, but I leave the disclaimer up, just because. Thanks for reviewing!
Barrie, everything is half off at Audible right now, so it’s a good time to buy! It’s not a particularly long book, but a riveting story.
This sounds like a good read, but I loathe the ones that don’t stick to history!
It’s not so much that she doesn’t stick to the history–it’s not like she changed historical events–she just kind of ignored them. And really, that is a minor nitpick with such a wonderful mystery.
I stopped reading another historical novel set in the 1940s because it barely mention The War. It’s important to get the period right.
I agree, Sarah, and that’s why I mentioned my confusion on that score. But it did not ruin my enjoyment of the story overall. I’m just surprised no one at her publishing house noticed that, but maybe she was enough of a star by then, that on one wanted to nitpick her book. OTOH, I’m often surprised by what editors don’t catch!