by Jocelyn Brooke
"For Duncan, Jim Tylor became a personification of romance and adventure. The secret "island" of his phantasies seemed nowadays almost to have lost its identity: the saga had become discredited by the impact of reality, had merged itself into the exciting quality of the poaching-expeditions in the soldier's company." (p 136)
This is very much a story of two lost persons, a boy and a man. We meet parent less young Duncan Cameron on a train heading toward his Uncle Gerald's farm called "Priorsholt". It soon becomes apparent that Gerald March is just as isolated as his nephew and as such has some interest in having a companion in spite of his reluctance and disinterest in taking on the responsibilities that he inherited with his Sister's estate.
Having just lost his mother, Duncan feels both excitement and fear as the narrative begins. He encounters a young soldier on the train whose presence tends to reinforce these feelings as Duncan meditates on his new life. "Glancing once again at the figure in the corner seat, it seemed to him that the soldier was a living symbol of that new existence, so exciting yet so frightening, towards which, every moment, the train was bringing him closer." (pp 7-8)
The actions of both Duncan and his Uncle raise more questions as the narrative evolves and the suspense slowly builds to a tragic denouement. Certainly both Uncle and nephew are sublimating emotions that they would prefer not to face openly much less share with each other. Duncan, as an adolescent on the cusp of manhood, is understandably confused about the changes he is feeling; changes that are both magnified by his seeming innocence and compounded by the strangeness of his new home. His uncle Gerald has practiced the sublimation of his feelings for the better part of a lifetime with the result that his actions take on a more sinister edge. Adding to the suspense is the return of the soldier, who he had met on the train, into Duncan's life in the second part of the novel.The effect of the actions and internal feelings of Duncan and his Uncle heightens the interest of the reader making this fascinating story a thoughtful and enjoyable read. Jocelyn Brooke, in this his first novel originally published in 1948, successfully creates a psychological suspense story.
The Scapegoat by Jocelyn Brooke. Turtle Point Press, 1998 (1948).