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FARTHING by Jo Walton

FARTHING

By Jo Walton

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 2006
ISBN: 0-765-31421-5
Publisher: Tor

Alternate-world murder mystery from the author of Tooth and Claw (2003), etc.

It’s 1949: Eight years after Sir James Thirkie brokered a peace with Hitler and abandoned Europe to the Nazis, the right-wing political gang known as the Farthing Group have routed Winston Churchill, seen off a short-lived Labor government and seem poised to take control of the Conservative party and Britain itself. Lord and Lady Eversley have invited guests—including their daughter, Lucy, and her Jewish banker husband, David Kahn—to Farthing House for a formal weekend. Soon, in true Tey-Sayers-Christie fashion, notorious homosexual MP Mark Normanby finds Sir James Thirkie dead in his dressing room, apparently stabbed with his own knife and regaled with a yellow star of the sort Jews are required to wear on the Continent. Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard soon grasps that the “blood” is in fact cheap lipstick, and that Sir James was stabbed after he died—of monoxide poisoning. As for the Jewish star: In a country that barely tolerates Jews and widely despises them, somebody clearly wants to pin the vile deed on David. To further confuse matters, a card-carrying communist gunman wounds Lucy and her father and is shot dead for his pains. Lucy, who knows David is innocent, wonders what her mother was doing wandering the corridors early on the morning the body was discovered, and what Normanby, the deceased’s brother-in-law, and the other Farthing Group members are plotting. As the political ramifications widen, Carmichael begins to understand that his superiors care more about politics than justice.

Despite a rather fumbling approach, Walton’s sinister political conspiracies pack a considerable wallop.