Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey, Carole Boyd

‘Come and see me again before you decide anything,’ the Rector had said; but he had at least been helpful in one direction. He had answered Brat’s main question. If it was a choice between love and justice, the choice had to be justice.

Brat Farrar (written in 1949) was not a perfect read. I have had issues with the some of the reactions of the characters:

‘Funny,’ he said, as Brat plunged the shoe into the water, ‘if any Ashby was to earn his living at this job it ought to have been your brother.’
‘You never showed much interest.’
‘And did Simon?’
‘There was a time when I couldn’t keep him out of this place. There wasn’t anything he wasn’t going to make, from a candlestick to gates for the avenue at Latchetts. Far as I remember, all he ever made was a sheep-crook, and that not over-well. But he was always round the place. It was a craze of his for the whole of a summer.’
‘Which summer was that?’
‘Summer you left us, it was. I’d misremember about it, only he was here seeing us put an iron on a cartwheel the day you ran away. I had to shoo him home for his supper.’

I suppose the last line was the author saving a discrepancy here. I just can’t get my head around that “Patrick”, i.e. Brat, has only been gone for 7 years but people seem to allow for him forgetting an awful lot about his life before that. It does not add up.

Also, Simon is very suspicious and I would have expected him to be able to tell if Brat is his brother or not. It’s not like they were separated at a young age.

And why does no-one ask Simon why he thinks that Brat isn’t/couldn’t be his brother when he first hears about him?

I believe some of the timing of the story is off, too.

The story is set in post-WWII Britain, which puts some of the story at a time during the height of WWII. I’m not disputing that this is possible, but Tey doesn’t mention anything about the ongoing war when relating those parts of the story – and this is not typical for Tey whose main character in another series, Allan Grant, suffers from PTSD after WWI.

What it does read like is a story that was originally drafted in the 1930s and then was revised for publication in 1949…except that some of the historical facts were silenced.

However, the story itself was really interesting: it’s not the usual whodunit. We know from the start that Brat Farrar is an impostor. What we don’t know is what happened to the character that he is trying to pass off as. This is revealed very slowly while were waiting to see if any of the Ashby family recognise Brat as a fraud.

I loved that concept.

I also loved the way that Brat introduces himself to the villain of the piece:

‘I suppose you wouldn’t like, in return for my confidences, to tell me something?’
‘Tell you what?’
‘Who you are?’
Brat sat looking at him for a long time. ‘Don’t you recognise me?’ he said.
‘No. Who are you?’
‘Retribution,’ said Brat, and finished his drink.

You see, I was tickled by the coincidence that Agatha Christie pursued a similar line in her book Nemesis (with Miss Marple playing the part of Nemesis). Nemesis being the name for the goddess of retribution.

There are no connections or similarities between Tey’s and Christie’s books other than the reference to mythology, but I liked that both authors picked up on the same theme.


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