by Jo Walton
Tor, 2006, ISBN 978-0-765-31421-5
(Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden)
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is an English country house murder mystery, extremely well done but basically typical of its kind—except that it’s set in 1949 in a Britain that made peace with Nazi Germany in 1941, and is sliding closer and closer to fascism.
The Farthing set, the political clique within the Conservative party that ousted Churchill and negotiated the peace, are currently in partial eclipse, and are holding a retreat at the Eversley family estate. The Eversleys’ daughter Lucy, who married a Jewish man over family objections, is surprised and somewhat annoyed that her mother has invited them, or rather, insisted that they attend, but she and her husband are there.
On the first night, Sir James Thirkie, a major leader of the group and the man who actually negotiated the peace, is murdered, with evidence planted to make it appear to uncritical observers that the murder was committed by a Jew.
The story is told in alternating chapters, Lucy’s account of her experiences, and the progress of Inspector Carmichael’s investigation. It’s really beautifully done, the English country house murder and the story of a country sinking into fascism wound around each in a way that works perfectly—the murder investigation winding to a satisfying, nicely complex but fair-to-the-reader resolution, and the political story and its human impact told honestly, convincingly, going where you know it has to go, while never getting as tough to read as it easily could get.
Maybe not the thing to read when you’re feeling stressed and need something soothing or distracting, but really excellent. Highly recommended.
(Note: I will now be listing editors' names when I have that information, for the benefit of Hugo nominators and Hugo voters. As a practical matter, given the practices of most publishers, this means I will be listing the editors' names for Tor books, and a random sampling of others when I can find the information.)