Here’s a thought-provoking new take on Nazi Germany and World War II that combines a murder mystery with science fiction. It’s chilling alternate history.
It’s 1949. Eight years earlier, Rudolf Hess had made his way to the United Kingdom to offer a peace settlement — and a British Cabinet member known as Lord Thirkie followed up with a flight to Berlin to meet Hitler personally. His mission led to a quick agreement in the spring of 1941, before Hitler’s planned invasion of the USSR and nearly a year before the USA would have entered the war. Nazi Germany, now unchallenged in the West, occupies the Continent from Gibraltar to Kiev, as fighting rages on between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union — eight years after the invasion.
In Britain, the effects of the peace have been profound. Anti-Semitism reigns, enthusiastically promoted by the country’s leading newspapers. Winston Churchill has been voted out of office and replaced, not with a Socialist, but with another Conservative. With elections looming again, the question on everyone’s mind is whether Lord Thirkie’s circle — a tightly knit cabal of titled Right-Wingers known as the Farthing Set — will capture 10 Downing Street. Even before the election, they’re championing a bill in Parliament that would allow only university graduates to vote.
Farthing (Farthing Trilogy #1) by Jo Walton @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Surrounded by a battalion of servants, Lord Thirkie and his “set” are gathered for a country weekend at the country home of Lord and Lady Eversley, located near a village that gives the Farthing Set its name. Suddenly one night Lord Thirkie is murdered — and suspicion points to a Jewish banker married to Lucy, the hosts’ rebellious daughter.
Farthing tells the tale of the investigation undertaken by Inspector Carmichael and Sergeant Royston of Scotland Yard. In alternating chapters, we view the action through the eyes of Lucy and the Inspector. The plot appears to be a straightforward drawing-room whodunit — but it’s not.
If you enjoy reading English murder mysteries — or if you’re simply attracted to the alternate history, as I was — you’re likely to love this book.
For further reading
For my review of the second book in the Farthing Trilogy, Ha’Penny, go to A gripping alternate history of England after World War II. The third, Half a Crown, is at Jo Walton finds the present in an alternate history of the past.
This is one of the 10 best alternate history novels reviewed here.
My post 5 top nonfiction books about World War II may also interest you.
For more good reading, check out:
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
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