The devil is in the details. In the case of Jo Walton‘s Farthing almost literally. Others have written alternative history books about the “what if” scenario of the Nazis wining WWII. But those books are often set either in Germany or decades after the war ending. This book however is set only a few years later and (mostly) in the English countryside. The details of the political system are sketched early on with wide brushstrokes, but the best parts of the book are the minutia details of how this imaginary system worked. The way nationalism, red scare (i.e. anti-bolshevikism) and anti-Semitism flawlessly could be combined with both the traditional British aristocratic temperament and get accepted by the working classes was frighteningly realistic. The nobles’ penchant for understatement and keeping out for their own interests made the events depicted here too believable.
The events quickly are: the leading person of the “Farthing Set” (who signed the peace agreement and created friendly terms with Hitler) is killed in his own countryside house during party night. An unwanted Jewish man, who married in the family and a random fake communist are wrongly insinuated in the death and this I used as pretenses to breaking down on reds and Jews. Meanwhile the real killers are the other members of the Farthing Set, who are rapacious for more power. The narration’s point of view is alternating between the gay detective’s and the family’s daughter’s who married out to the Jewish small-loan banker. The voice Walton created for her is subtle, honest and the funniest in the whole lot.