Sunday, November 10, 2019

Brat Farrar

During my October mystery month, I managed to finally read Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar. This is a wonderful, classic mystery, complete with doppelgangers, family fortunes, English countryside, extended family, and a pretty good mystery.

It reminded me a lot of Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat, which I read last year in that the protagonist, Brat Farrar, has to prove that he is really the person he is pretending to be, so it takes a lot of concentration on his part to remember all the details he has learned as well as anticipate or project how the other person would have behaved in a given situation.

In a nutshell, Brat is impersonating the older of a pair of twins who was presumed to have committed suicide was he was 13 but since the body was never found, only a suicide note, the family is open to the idea that he ran away after his parents died because he was grief stricken.

Although the book was fun to read, the entire plot is on pretty shaky ground--it's hard to really project how family members would really react when a lost boy shows up on the eve of turning 21 and inheriting the family estate, undercutting the expectations of his twin brother who didn't disappear, but this family seems to really take it all in stride and accept Brat pretty willingly, all things considered.

With DNA testing, this type of plot really can't work in the modern world, athough it might be fun to watch the plot gymnastics of an author trying to modernize the story.

There is a mini series from 1986, which maybe I'll try to watch this winter.

Mark Greenstreet as Brat Farrar

I'm counting this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge in the category of novella, as the edition I read was 240 pages, just under the 250 page cutoff.


  1. If I was his twin brother I'm not sure I'd have been so accepting and welcoming. And congrats on finishing another classic for this year's challenge!

  2. Hi Jane,
    Despite the shaky ground, this one does sound really interesting. I'm adding it to my list pronto! Thanks!

  3. Hi JaneGS, I recently read Daughter of Tine and so I am curious about Brat Farrar. Thanks for your fine review and good point about DNA complicating things nowadays. I'm curious how the imposter could pull off this impersonation so my guess is they were fraternal and not identical twins.

  4. The plot sounds interesting. I guess it is kind of a variation on the story of the Prodigal Son. I think that an update of the story could involve adopted children to avoid the DNA issue.

  5. I read these the other way 'round so it was The Scapegoat that reminded me of Brat Farrar. You know, it seems so implausible but there really are doppelgangers out there, though I doubt any would be able to fool a close family member.

  6. Yeah the plot sounds a bit far-fetched in this day and age but still fun to follow an imposter ....

  7. I haven't read Brat Farrar, but your first line has sold me :) As you say, pity the availability of DNA testing makes this sort of plot implausible for 21st century plots.

  8. Josephine Tey is one of my favourite authors. I really enjoyed this book but my favourite books are those that feature the detective Alan Grant.