Sunday, May 25, 2008

Review: Farthing

I started reading Farthing(free kindle edition) because Scarlet mentioned it in a post. Since it's one of the many free books Tor has been giving away, I started reading it.

The novel is structured like an Agatha Christie novel --- a murder has happened within a noble family, and who has done it? The twist is that this novel takes place in an alternate England, a world where Winston Churchill was pushed out of office prematurely, and England sued for peace with Hitler, who wanted to open up a front with Russia without interference. America never entered the war. As a result, none of the stories of the holocaust made it to public consciousness, so anti-semitism is prevalent. And of course, homophobia was prevalent in 1949 in both histories.

The story alternates between Scotland Yard's Inspector Carmichael and Lucy Eversley Kahn, a child of the Farthing Set (the politicians who negotiated for peace) who married a Jewish banker. The murder takes place the night after a dinner party, and Scotland Yard shows up and starts gathering clues. We're given privvy to several things that Scotland Yard doesn't know at the start, and then the hunt is afoot.

I'm actually disappointed by the mystery. It didn't seem like much of one, especially when the reveal happens. The author seems much more caught up in extrapolating her alternate universe, and the characters who are our viewpoint characters seem out of place. There does also seem to be an unusually large number of gay and bi-sexual characters, which seems a bit hard to swallow, given the prevalent attitudes at that time. Ultimately, while I don't regret the time spent reading this novel, I can't recommend paying money for the book at full price. I'll wait for the Kindle editions of the sequels. (Strangely enough, even though the book was given away for free in Kindle format, none of the sequels are available in the sequel store --- not very smart in my opinion)
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