Book review: Zadie Smith’s mistaken identity novel casts an eye over Victorian England and its many frauds

The Fraud is ostensibly about a butcher who claims to be the long-lost son of an heiress, but also examines many other half-truths of the period

Zadie Smith, the award-winning writer whose debut White Teeth prompted a publisher bidding war before it was even finished, places the Roger Tichborne case at the centre of her sixth novel

Here’s a true story, although it’s hard to credit. Roger Tichborne, heir to a fortune and a title, left England to tour South America in 1853. He spent over a year travelling around the sub-continent before boarding the Bella for Jamaica. Wreckage bearing the ship’s name washed ashore in Brazil and it was presumed all souls were lost.

Roger’s mother, hearing rumours that another ship called the Osprey bound for Australia had picked up survivors, ...