Brat Farrar

Brat-Farrarby Josephine Tey

If I had to choose a favorite mystery novel, I think I’d pick Josephine Tey’s, Brat Farrar (Touchstone, 1997).  I have now read Brat Farrar so many times that I’ve had to replace several worn out copies.  I’ve always heard that Tey, who published little more than a handful of novels between 1927 and 1952, had trouble coming up with plots; so she frequently borrowed stories she had read in newspapers and then composed a novel based loosely around those details.  (This is certainly the case with her novel, The Franchise Affair, which happens to be possibly my second all time favorite mystery novel.)  Even a brief outline of Brat Farrar reveals a familiar plot: A young man masquerades as the heir to a fortune and nearly gets away with it.  But Tey turns this summary on its head and the result is an emotionally satisfying novel that answers less who-done-it than how-and-why it was done.  The title character, Brat Farrar, returns to England after spending many years in Canada working as a ranch hand.  He is sitting peacefully in a restaurant one day when a total stranger comes up to him, addresses him as Simon, and asks him how come he’s able to lounge around London when his 21st birthday is rapidly approaching (which means that as eldest son he’ll come into a not-inconsiderable inheritance). Shouldn’t he be home helping with the plans for the gala occasion?  At first Brat is merely surprised at being mistaken for Simon Ashby, heir to Latchetts, an English country estate devoted to horse breeding, then he’s intrigued when the stranger comes up with an apparently perfect plan, one with a big financial payoff for both men.  Brat will simply pretend that he’s Patrick, the first-born twin and therefore the rightful heir.  But Patrick disappeared when he was about 13, and has long been presumed dead.  Brat, as Patrick, will return to the family, collect his inheritance, split it with the stranger, who turns out to be a close family friend of the Ashby’s, and then disappear again. After some intensive coaching, Brat infiltrates himself into the life of the Ashby family, only to discover that things are seldom what they seem, and an easy con turns potentially deadly.



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13 responses to “Brat Farrar

  1. Yvette

    I too loved BRAT FARRAR, but I must say that my very favorite Josephine Tey book is DAUGHTER OF TIME. I’ve read these two books many times over the years and never tire of them.

    For whatever reason I’ve never read THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR, but now that you’ve reminded me of it, I will remedy the situation. ; )

    • Nancy Pearl

      Let me know how you like The Franchise Affair. I hope you love it as much as I do.

      • Yvette

        Nancy, I’ve just read THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR and liked it very much. Although, I didn’t like it as much as you did. I think, really, I waited too long to read it. My favorite Teys are still DAUGHTER OF TIME and BRAT FARRAR. But A SHILLING FOR CANDLES has risen in my estimation. Maybe I read it at just the right time. And I did love the young girl character in it who reminded me so much of Flavia de Luce.

  2. Kim Uyyek

    Just finished The Franchise Affair and I thought of you. I am looking forward to reading Brat Farrar after reading that you like it better.

    • Nancy

      Well, I loved the Franchise Affair, too. It’s hard for me to choose between them. I’ll be interested to hear which you liked best.

  3. Harriet Derrevere

    Hi Nancy, You probably wouldn’t remember me, but I am an admirer from the past. I remember you
    helping me find books at Yorktown Alley Bookstore in Utica Square many years ago.
    I have subscribed to your reviews for quite some time. I just finished Brat Ferrar and loved the story. I just could not tell how it would end or what would happen to some of the characters-very exciting. Thanks for all your sharing.

    • Nancy

      So nice to hear from you and I am very happy that you loved Brat Farrar, too. There was a Masterpiece Theater or BBC presentation of it, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the book.

  4. Teresa

    Nearly sobbed when I scrolled down and read the words – Brat Farrar. This was such a good book and I too have read it many times. Definitely a fav book of mine if not the fav for mysteries.

    Thanks for including it in your blog. Hope others will give it a read!


  5. pearlspicks

    Let me know what you think.

  6. pearlspicks

    Of course I remember you – and I think it just might appeal to fans of The Likeness, although it’s much less psychological – you can really zip right through it, which I found impossible to do when I read the Tana French novels.

  7. Nancy, I was in your Booklust 102 class at the iSchool a couple years ago, not sure if you remember me (you must have so many former students by now). I had no idea you had a blog and I’m so excited to find this!

    Do you think this would appeal to fans of Tana French? Kind of makes me think of The Likeness from your description… Anyway, adding it to my to-read list. I’ve mainly been reading nonfiction lately and have been looking for some good fiction to read.


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