I will always be grateful for Jo Walton, because it was her reread for tor.com of Patrick O’Brien’s “Master & Commander” series that finally got me to read them, and I enjoyed them immensely.
I read her Hugo-winning novel Among Others when it came out, and while I enjoyed many parts of it—it is, after all, a love letter to the genre of SF—it didn’t quite hit for me.
So I’m uncertain why I picked up her earlier novel Farthing, but I did, and I’m glad.
Imagine if Gosford Park (I was of course tempted to use Mr. Fellowes’ more recent and better-known work as a referent, but Gosford Park fits better) was set in an England that had successfully negotated peace with Nazi Germany. The murder is political, rather than personal, and British politics have become corrosively anti-Semitic and anti-Communist, while keeping the same streak of homophobia that led to Alan Turing’s demise, and the class system remains ever the same.
The whodunit is really secondary—the interesting bits are the characters, and the way they co-opt or chafe against the milieu in which they are force to exist. Against my expectation, it worked quite well.