Customer Reviews for

Farthing

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Devastating and Brilliant

    Farthing starts out as a fun, Sayers-esque cozy British country house mystery. The narrative switches between Lucy's first-person perspective and a third-person limited perspective focused on Inspector Carmichael of Scotland Yard, and both perspectives are absolutely perfect for the tone. Lucy reminds me of several Agatha Christie heroines -- the ones that seem least suited to solving a mystery on the outside but who deep down have all the insight into the people around them, and the necessary cynicism to suspect the darkest motives while still holding firm to their own principles of right and wrong. Inspector Carmichael is a totally different type of detective, the one who forever keeps an open mind despite all and sundry pushing him this way and that with their own biases and assumptions. Added to this mix of British delight is Walton's frank insertion of sex -- not sex as scenery, added for tone and texture but otherwise irrelevant, but sex as motivation, which none of the British mystery novelists of the time could have talked about (though many alluded to it).

    Throughout the first two-thirds of the novel, this was all it appeared to be, and I was delighted by that. But I did not fall into the trap I think many readers did, judging from the comments online. I never once forgot that this was an alternate history novel.

    Through that first two-thirds the alternate history was kept strictly to the background. Oh, there were hints of chilling things happening -- the casual anti-Semitism many of the characters (even some of the "good" guys) displayed, the mention of the fascist measures some of the Farthing set were working on in Parliament. Even more terrifying was how few of the characters not actively involved in politics cared about those measures -- Inspector Carmichael, for example, cared only in terms of how they would affect him personally or professionally, a trait which I found abominable and utterly realistic.

    And then, just as I had pieced together the mystery to my satisfaction and was wondering how Walton was going to drag it out for the last third, all that alternate history came to the fore, and it devastated me.

    While some have decried the ending as too abrupt and out of the blue, I found it absolutely perfect, if absolutely terrifying. The ending is what elevates the novel above her previous Tooth and Claw -- instead of being an homage to a beloved genre with an SF twist, it is a dark, powerful, moving work entirely in its own right. I could not put it down through the last third, even though I desperately wanted to escape that world. I have no idea how Walton is going to continue to explore the world in the next two novels of the series; I don't even think I really want to know; but I know I have to pick them up and read on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Very enjoyable

    In 1941, Sir James Thirkie arranged a peace treaty with Hitler, which left the Nazis the continent. Eight years later, the right-wing Farthing Group, whose leader made peace in our times with the Germans, seems ready to take control of the Conservative Party and therefore Great Britain itself.------------ The Farthing leaders meet to discuss and deal with the future of England as they feel fit. However, someone murders their leader Sir James Thirkie leaving a yellow star as worn by Jews in Europe at the insistence of Hitler pinned to his chest with a dagger. This not only throws the Farthing followers in disarray, it places them under the cloud as murder suspects though they insist the Bolsheviks killed their champion. Scotland Yard Inspector Carmichael realizes that the victim died of carbon monoxide poisoning before he was stabbed by his own knife. He also believes the Jewish star is a red herring to throw blame on the despised Jews perhaps Jewish banker husband, David Kahn, whose spouse Lucy is shot. With pressure from his superiors and the leaders of the government to blame the Jews, Carmichael finds himself embroiled in a political conspiracy that could destroy this little rock of a nation.-------------- FARTHING is a terrific alternate history police procedural centered in a world in which the British hierarchy ¿exiled¿ Churchill and avoid war by appeasing the Nazis. Though the conspiracy is over the top, the investigation is cleverly handled in a Christie manner that is fun to follow as Carmichael begins to understand the depth of what he is unraveling one layer at a time while his supervisors demand he accuse a Jew preferably the son-in-law of the host. Fans will appreciate this interesting look at a de-Churchill late 1940s England.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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