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Josephine Tey

Brat Farrar

Peter Davies, London, 1949, 278 pp.

Macmillan, New York, 1949, cover art Leo Manso (right)

Penguin, 1980, pb, 237 pp. (left)

Numerous other reprints

Arrow, pb, 2008, 288 pp.

We know from the start that the "returning from the dead" brother is an
imposter, but still Josephine Tey makes  "Patrick" a sympathetic character.
 It's such a subtle book. I love the way everyone reacts differently to Patrick
rather than simply being slaves to the plot. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Elizabeth Mackintosh (1896 - 1952) wrote under the names Gordon Daviot and Josephine Tey. Born in Inverness, she was educated at the Anstey Physical Training College in Birmingham as a physical training instructress. When she had to give up teaching to return to Scotland and look after her father, she began to write. Her first play was Richard of Bordeaux, performed at the Arts Theatre in 1932. Though best known during her lifetime as a playwright, she wrote several detective novels under the name Josephine Tey. She felt her novels were inferior to her plays, and referred to them as her “yearly knitting”, but Gillian Avery, in her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Josephine Tey, calls them “classics of their kind.” Her Brat Farrar is a brilliant read, and the one novel she wrote to be influenced by her fondness for racing.

Finding the book: blessedly, it’s back in print again. It’s had many printings over the years, and they are generally very easy to find. I suspect the first edition would need a deep intake of breath before paying out for.

Sources and links

The Richard III Society on Josephine Tey - includes text of The Times obituary, and much useful critical information.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Gillian Avery, 2004

Bibliography - horse books only