Mark Twain, who knew a few things about telling a good story and presenting the implausible as believable, threw up his hands in despair when he had thoroughly researched the story of Tom Castro, a Wagga Wagga butcher who became the most famous imposter of all time.  Twain gave up the idea, though, when he admitted “the public would say such people are impossible” and contented himself with compiling a scrapbook on the remarkable case of “Sir Roger Charles Doughty Tichborne.”  

Fortunately for contemporary readers Paul Terry, an author whose wit at time rivals Mark Twain himself, has taken up the tale and produced a book that is both hilarious and intriguing.  The story of the imposter Castro (or was his name Arthur Orton?) who managed to fool even the real baronet’s own mother and became an international sensation after enduring lengthy civil and criminal trials reads like an impossible novel.  Even though the Claimant was a huge, fat, toothless and coarse man, he managed to pass himself off as an aristocrat who was lost at sea in the early 1850s by claiming he had been picked up as a shipwreck survivor and taken to Australia by a ship no one seems to have been able to document.  By claiming to be Tichborne, Castro gained passage from Sydney to London where he demanded both the title (and more importantly) the fortune of a family that wanted nothing to do with him.  Only the aged, widowed mother of the lost Tichborne heir accepted him, but she inconveniently died before either of the trials began.

This book is, in places, a mystery, a tragedy, and a laugh out loud comedy.  Terry has a remarkably dry wit that shines through on every page.  I was totally captivated by this book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I think even Mark Twain would have enjoyed it.

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