Farthing (Small Change) by Jo Walton

    Who killed Cock Robin?
    I, said the Sparrow

Description: One summer weekend in 1949 — but not our 1949 — the well-connected “Farthing set”, a group of upper-crust English families, enjoy a country retreat. Lucy is a minor daughter in one of those families; her parents were both leading figures in the group that overthrew Churchill and negotiated peace with Herr Hitler eight years before.
Despite her parents’ evident disapproval, Lucy is married — happily — to a London Jew. It was therefore quite a surprise to Lucy when she and her husband David found themselves invited to the retreat. It’s even more startling when, on the retreat’s first night, a major politician of the Farthing set is found gruesomely murdered, with abundant signs that the killing was ritualistic.
It quickly becomes clear to Lucy that she and David were brought to the retreat in order to pin the murder on him. Major political machinations are at stake, including an initiative in Parliament, supported by the Farthing set, to limit the right to vote to university graduates.
But whoever’s behind the murder, and the frame-up, didn’t reckon on the principal investigator from Scotland Yard being a man with very private reasons for sympathizing with outcasts… and looking beyond the obvious.
As the trap slowly shuts on Lucy and David, they begin to see a way out — a way fraught with peril in a darkening world.

Opening: It started when David came in from the lawn absolutely furious.

We are dropped into Farthing Set HQ, which is a microcosm of pre WWII Facist Berlin (think Isherwood). The squeeze is on for Jews and gypsies, and the blacks and the reds had better watch out. It is this background shiver that ups the ante on this, which is ostensibly an Up-At-The-Big-House mystery.

Love the way that it is through David’s lips we hear “It can’t happen here.”

On the minus side, I never once forgot that I was reading the book, turning the pages, so it didn’t pull me in enough to exhort that I lived it. The writing was too pedestrian for that.

Great storyline exposing the need to always fight fascism wherever it is found, even if it is just one cell, it proliferates like the plague. Looking forward to the next, which is wending its way to my postbox as we speak.

(did I just do a good impression of the feedback sandwich! bwhahahaha)

3.5* Farthing


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