Brat Farrar is one of the two mysteries by Josephine Tey that does not feature detective Alan Grant. Written in 1949, it was among the post-war novels — the other two being Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair — that helped cement Tey’s reputation as one of the best of the Golden Age mystery writers.
Tey first introduces us to the Ashby family having a lively lunch in their home, Latchetts, which has been in the family for generations. The eldest, Simon, is soon to be “of age” and inherit Latchetts, and he is joined at the table by Aunt Bee (who has raised the children since their parents died in a plane crash eight years earlier) and his siblings, Eleanor, who teaches horseback riding to children at a nearby school, and the young twins, Ruth and Jane. The scene is a warm, happy one and draws the reader into the book.
But then we meet the orphan Brat Farrar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Simon. Brat is persuaded by a “friend” of the Ashbys to pose as the long-lost Patrick Ashby, Simon’s twin, who disappeared shortly after his parents’ death and whose body has never been found. Brat quickly insinuates himself into the family, explaining that rather than killing himself, as everyone assumed, he ran away to sea and lived in America until recently. As the older twin, Brat/Patrick will inherit Latchetts, not Simon. One by one, he wins over the Ashby family, leaving only Simon believing he is a fraud.
Tey is such a talented writer that she makes it difficult for the reader to dislike Brat despite his dishonesty. By the time he begins to suspect that Patrick was a victim of murder and not a suicide, we find ourselves firmly on his side. Brat’s dilemma is that by proving that Patrick was murdered, he will expose his own crime and bring further sorrow to the family he has come to love.
Brat Farrar has typical Tey touches: a humorous spoof of overly permissive schools like Summerhill and an exciting horserace, as well as some of her most appealing characters in Aunt Bee and Brat himself. It’s a masterful book from start to finish.
Here’s a link to Amazon if you want to buy the book: Brat Farrar