The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

The Ivy Tree is Mary Stewart’s version of Josephine Tey’s vintage crime book Brat Farrar. I read that one last year and really liked it so I was a bit dubious about reading the Stewart take on the same sort of storyline.

It’s set in a farm in Northumberland in the north of England, Roman Wall country. The elderly owner is failing fast and there’s doubt as to who the property will be passed on to after his heir, his 18 year old grand-daughter Annabel, walked out after a row eight years previously, never to be seen or heard of again.

His great-nephew, Con, is desperate to get his hands on the farm and when one day he sees Annabel’s double, a young stranger from Canada, he and his half-sister Lisa cook up a plan to secure the farm with the help of the doppelganger.

Initially I thought it was a wee bit of a cheek on Mary Stewart’s part to so blatantly nick Josephine Tey’s idea but she mentions her several times in The Ivy Tree and I like to think of Stewart reading Brat Farrar and saying to herself “I could do better than that” – and she did!

There were unexpected twists and turns right to the end of The Ivy Tree, and you can’t say fairer than that.

12 thoughts on “The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

  1. I’ve only read one Mary Stewart ‘Rose Cottage’. It was good, I enjoyed it. I have Bret Farrar on my shelf and it is on my vintage mystery challenge list. My interest is really peaked now. Oh, Katrina, my copy of ‘The 12:30 from Croydon’ came yesterday! It is ‘used’ like new and it is new, not even a crease in the binding like its ever been opened! I’m excited!

    • Peggy Ann,
      I don’t think I’ve read Rose Cottage, if so it was in the year dot! I think she’s fond of writing about houses. I hope you enjoy the Freeman Wills Crofts, I got another one from the library today and on Sunday I went to an antiques fair and found a beautiful leather bound, gold edged copy of The Cask which is his first book (1920) – for four quid!

  2. I haven’t read much of Mary Stewart’s work beyond the Merlin books – but this one is going straight on my list. I love Brat Farrar, and I’m very intrigued to read her version of the story.

    • Lisa,
      Her Merlin books are my favourites but I think The Ivy Tree comes close. I read quite a lot of her books about 30 years ago and I’m now trying to catch up with the ones I haven’t read yet.

  3. Yay! I’m so glad this is a good one. I own quite a few Stewart novels now, but not this one. I have a goal to read all of her suspense novels so will definitely get this soon.
    I read Brat Farrar many years ago and remember it being fab!

    • Anbolyn,
      I’m sure you’ll really enjoy The Ivy Tree when you get around to it. Her Arthurian/Merlin books are well worth reading too if you enjoy that sort of thing.

  4. Glad you liked this! This is one of her best IMO–really meaty & juicy plot, and I do appreciate a romantic relationship that is integral to unraveling the puzzle. I liked it better than Brat Farrar too!

    • Niranjana,
      I remember it was you who mentioned to me that Mary Stewart had written a version of Brat Farrar, and I’ve been looking for it in secondhand bookshops ever since. I don’t know why I didn’t just get it from the internet! Thanks for mentioning it to me.

  5. I read all the Mary Stewart books when I was about 17, because my schoolfriend lived down the road from her. I loved them then but haven’t read them since! Maybe I’ll see if the library have one when I take back the O.Douglases. Talking of O Douglas, I have had little success on tracking down the Rigs but now wonder if in fact it was possibly a house I have photographed and is on my Peebles blog. It’s the nearest in description I can find.

    • Evee,
      I had a look, the Riggs might be there, I can’t really remember how it was described, or I suppose she might just have made up a conglomoration of houses in her mind. It would be easier to base it on a real one though.
      I read Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy when I was around 17 and loved it and as I knew she was living in Edinburgh I kept meaning to write to her because she had mentioned Dumbarton Caste in the books and I wondered if she had just made it all up or if she was basing it on fact – but of course I never did get around to writing. I think she’s now living up north around Perthshire, she must be a good age.

  6. I read and enjoyed The Ivy Tree as I’ve been a fan of Mary Stewart’s ever since I used to read her stories, serialized, in my mother’s magazines when I was young, but I didn’t know she lifted it from Josephine Tey, whom I ‘m only now starting to read. You’re right–that was cheeky. Now I’m intrigued to read both and compare the, as you did.

    • Jane GS,
      At least Mary Stewart is very up-front about nicking the idea and she does give Josephine Tey and her book Brat Farrar quite a few name checks throughout The Ivy Tree. I didn’t realise she wrote for mags. – I probably read some then too!

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