Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

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Have you ever been struck by a completely random thought?  Just in the middle of the day a thirty-odd-year-old memory pops in your head because you hear or see something?  It happens all the time to each of us and it happened to me not so long ago. 

In one of the hallways where I work is a calendar and the picture for the month was a horse. I had passed that calendar a good fifty times that day and on the fifty-first pass I saw the horse and I thought, “Brat Farrar.”

Why? Because Brat Farrar liked horses.

Right now you may be wanting to ask, “Who in the heck is Brat Farrar?”

Brat Farrar is an Englishman. As a teenager he ran away from his orphanage and made his way to the United States. There, he worked with horses on ranches and race stables. Eventually, after he recovered from an accident which left him with a permanent limp, he returned to England.

Back in London, he runs into a middling actor by the name of Alec Loding on the street. When Loding sees Brat, he calls him Simon. Brat is the spitting image of Simon Ashby. The Ashby clan are an established family of equestrians. Loding is an old friend of the family, he grew up with the Ashby children and knows the family better than they may know themselves. In meeting Brat, Loding hatches a plan to make them both some money.

The Ashby children’s parents both died and they were raised by their aunt, Bee. At the age of twenty-one, Simon is to inherit the family fortune. He’s only inheriting everything because his identical twin brother, Patrick (born first), committed suicide when he was thirteen. Patrick left a note on the cliffs and, according to police deductions, jumped to his death the waters below. His body was never found.

But, as Loding suggests, the suicide note was a rather ambiguous. Technically, it’s possible that Patrick merely ran away. With Loding’s training, Brat will pose as Patrick, inherit the Ashby estate and pay Loding a monthly sum so he can live comfortably for the rest of his life without having to worry about the effort of working for a living.

After some deliberation on Brat’s part due to a battle of conscience, he agrees (the man does love to work with horses). He presents himself to the family lawyer who declares him the real thing. The lawyer calls Bee and tells her that her (presumed) dead nephew is back in the world of the living.

Bee meets Brat before she notifies any of the rest of the family. As cautious as she is to assume his authenticity, she does believe him to be Patrick Ashby. Of course the family is excited, except for Simon Ashby.

Simon dos not accept Brat as his long lost twin brother. He believes it to be impossible for Brat to be Patrick.

“Why?” you ask. Brat sets out to discover that for himself, too.

I just recently read Josephine Tey’s 1949 mystery novel, Brat Farrar and it was all because of that spontaneous memory. I only knew of the PBS Mystery! adaptation I watched back in 1986. I remember little of the three-part miniseries other than I thought the name “Brat” was strange (it may be stranger that a nine-year-old was watching Mystery!). The book is no great epic of literature, but it’s fun if you don’t read too much into it. It’s a great time killer for lazy summer days.