” Nor had his pale features any expression. He was so tightly strung, Brat thought, that if you plucked him with a finger he would twang. And then quite suddenly the tightness went. He stood for a moment searching for Brat’s face; and his own was a sudden slack with relief. ” (Ch.12, p.105)
Brat Farrar is a mystery involving an imposter and an aged crime set in and around a horse farm in southern England shortly after World War Two. The gimmick here is twins and the theme is the Gothic classic of impersonation. Simon Ashby is about to turn twenty-one and inherit the family’s substantial Latchetts estate and stables. His twin brother, Patrick, disappeared eight years earlier, left behind a note tucked in a jacket. He was thought to have drowned himself out f grief for his parents’ death.
And Brat, walking down the street, was shocked to find himself exhilarated. He had expected to be nervous and a little ashamed. And it had not been the least like that. It had been one of the most exciting things he had ever done. A wonderful, tight-rope sort of thing. He had sat there and lied and not even been conscious that he was lying, it had been so thrilling. (Ch.6, p.51)
A former neighbor of the Ashbys, Alec Loding, chances to meet the broke Brat Farrar, an English orphan who had traveled to Mexico and the United States and worked on ranches for several years. Intrigued by Farrar’s striking resemblance to Patrick, Loding abets him to impersonate Patrick—and thus Farrar arrives in Latchetts on the eve of Simon’s coming-of-age ceremony, with the plan to usurp the family fortune.
This identity-confusion works fairly well, creating a suspense that gingerly unfolds. Tension mounts between the twins as they come face to face each other. They speculate each other’s motives. Under the tutelage of Loding, Brat learns as much as he can about the Ashbys, being coached on Patrick’s mannerisms, appearance and every significant detail of his life. Brat passes the interviews with the solicitor and Aunt Beatrice, who is in charge of the stewardship, but never fully convinces Simon.
It’s not terribly difficult to figure out early on what turns the story is likely to take. In fact, I solve the mystery about half way through the book. So it’s not so much the plot that keeps me engrossed but how the loose ends will wrap up. In this regard, Tey has rushed the ending. Even though I knew what is going to happen, I would have appreciated more exposition. Otherwise it’s a satisfactory read because it keeps one guessing whether Brat Farrar can pull off and carry off the deception.
286 pp. Simon & Schuster. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]