A mystery of real quality

Josephine Tey  - Brat Farrar
Arrow Books, 2009, 275 pages

I had read on some website somewhere that Tey’s Brat Farrar was one of those novels you had to read. Never having heard of Tey I was curious to find out why this novel was so beloved. I cannot say I consider it one of the great classics but there is a certain charm and elegance about the novel that makes it very endearing.
Brat Farrar at 21 years of age has an uncanny resemblance to missing thirteen year old Patrick Ashby. Brat having been coached by a family friend in the mannerisms and Ashby family, he begins his deceit to become Patrick and inherit a good deal of money.
As you read this novel, you have this real feeling that you are in the story, that you are standing next to Brat as he becomes more involved in the family. Tey is wonderful at establishing the scene and then taking you on this wonderful journey. I mean it becomes pretty obvious what has happened to Patrick but that does not matter as you are with Brat as he discovers the truth.
The characters are wonderfully created and they are not perfect, they can be maddeningly annoying at times but that is family. I like how Tey has captured the difficulty of being the prodigal son returning home, the pressures to conform, to resume as nothing has changed.
There is some lovely humour throughout the story, upon describing George Peck it is remarked “I could get more romance out of a cement mixer” or how Mrs Bloom became to be known as Mrs Gloom because of her relish for disaster.
While the novel may seem dated in style as it was written in 1949 (I think) it does deal with a rather difficult subject and that is of a child committing a heinous crime. You tend to forget that it is thought provoking and an issue we are still trying to understand.