Tag Archives: mistaken identity

#BookReview ‘The Ivy Tree’ by Mary Stewart #mystery

A strange encounter on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland kicks off this mystery of assumed identity and deceit. The premise of The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart reminded me immediately of Josephine Tey’s masterpiece about a fraudulent heir, Brat Farrar and Stewart’s characters refer to the Tey book. Mary StewartDays after a young man mistakes Mary Grey for a local woman who disappeared eight years earlier, Mary sees a strange woman watching her in the Newcastle café where she is waitressing. What follows is a complex plot to secure the fortune and property of an elderly gentleman, his health failing, before he should die. Mary, at the behest of sibling partnership Connor Winslow and Lisa Dermott, will impersonate Annabel Winslow, the woman she so resembles, in order to win the Winslow’s farm Whitescar for Con. Unscrupulous, immoral? Or redressing a wrong perpetuated in a will which needs updating before Matthew Winslow’s imminent death? Throughout the first half of the story, which works up to the false Annabel’s arrival at Whitescar and the hurdles of lies and pretence she must negotiate, I suspected Mary Grey of being the real Annabel. But at the halfway mark in the story, everything changes as new information bursts on the scene. And all set in the glorious summer setting of rural Northumberland, where abundant roses tumble through the hedgerows and a cat named Tommy has kittens.
More a mystery with an odd touch of romance, than a romantic mystery, Stewart has populated the story with edgy unlikeable characters. Apart from Annabel’s grandfather and her young cousin Julie, who was only eleven when Annabel was assumed dead after mysteriously disappearing. Julie’s naïvely-recounted memories of what passed eight years earlier help the reader, and ‘Annabel,’ to grasp the complexities of the Winslow family politics. But as for everyone else, I didn’t trust any of them.
The ivy tree of the novel’s title is not of course made of ivy, it’s a large old oak tree now swamped by ivy. ‘Eventually the ivy would kill it. Already, through the tracery of the ivy-stems, some of the oak boughs showed dead, and one great lower limb, long since broken off, had left a gap where rotten wood yawned, in holes deep enough for owls to nest in.’ As the story unfolds, the significance of this tree becomes clearer. Stewart, as always, writes with such a brooding sense of atmosphere, almost acting as an extra character. And she handles the balance of trickery, of information withheld, suspected, hinted and revealed, like a master craftsman.
A story with so many twists it seems the knot will never be untied. But it is, in a final thrilling scene involving the old ivy tree. Another Mary Stewart classic. She makes you feel as if you’re there, watching as the story unfolds around you.

Click the title to read my reviews of other Mary Stewart novels:-

Click the title to read my review of BRAT FARRAR by Josephine Tey.

If you like this, try these:-
My Husband the Stranger’ by Rebecca Done
Wolf Winter’ by Cecilia Ekback
Little Deaths’ by Emma Flint

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE IVY TREE by Mary Stewart #BookReview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Sc via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Brat Farrar’ by Josephine Tey #mystery #thriller

What a revelation is Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, a thoughtful mystery of assumed identity I didn’t want to put down. It is the first Tey novel I have read and I now have that wonderful prospect ahead of me, anticipating seven more novels to enjoy. The book first came to my attention on social media – Twitter or Facebook I don’t recall – when a fellow writer, sadly I don’t remember who, said she re-reads this novel as the brilliant telling of a mistaken identity mystery. Josephine Tey

Brat Farrar, an English orphan, has returned to London after years travelling, most recently living in America working with horses. Horses are an important part of the story. Crossing the road, he is seen by Alec Loding, a fading actor who recognises Brat’s uncanny resemblance to Patrick Ashby, a thirteen year old boy who committed suicide years earlier. Patrick’s body was never found and Loding – who grew up nearby and knew the Ashby family well – sees the opportunity for Brat to appear at the Ashby family home and stud, Latchetts, as Patrick. In return for coaching, Loding will receive a regular payment for the rest of his life. Brat proves to be unexpectedly convincing during the training period and both men decide to go ahead with their scheme. The family and its lawyers are won over by Brat and the emotional return of Patrick. His younger twin brother Simon and heir to the Ashby inheritance is not convinced, however.

What follows is a cat and mouse game of who-has-guessed-what in which I grew to like Brat and dislike Simon, not what I expected. Tey creates complex characters with light and shade and, though the novel was first published in 1949, it is not dated. Brat tailors his own experiences to dovetail with what may have happened to Patrick if he had run away – no body was found, the inquest passed a verdict of suicide based on a note found after Patrick’s disappearance – and he finds himself loving the Ashbys and Latchetts.

An excellent read.

Oh and to the writer who inspired me to read Brat Farrar, a huge thank you!

If you like this, try:-
The Quarry’ by Iain Banks
Wolf Winter’ by Cecilia Ekback
The Snakes’ by Sadie Jones

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BRAT FARRAR by Josephine Tey #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-48P via @SandraDanby