Book Review Club: Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey #mystery #review

Brat Farrar
by Josephine Tey
First Published in 1949
Audio book narrated by Carole Boyd

audiobook cover

Dear FCC: I’d heard of this book for a long time, but had never read it. Then 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.

twins cover

I like this cover showing the two young men, but with one in black and white.

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.

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