Friday, October 15, 2010

Ha'Penny by Jo Walton

Inspector Carmichael is back in another mystery by Jo Walton, set in the world of the Farthing Peace. I had wondered which characters Walton was going to bring back in this novel, and was delighted to find the Inspector, though most of the characters from Farthing are only mentioned in passing here.

A bomb has exploded at the home of actress Lauria Gilmore, killing her and a companion. Carmichael and Royston are called in to investigate, and their path rapidly grows obscure as they try to figure out exactly who was killed with Gilmore, and why an actress, of all sorts, would be involved in a bombing.

Again, Walton splits the story into two narratives. The other protagonist is Viola Lark, another actress who has given up her family inheritance in order to pursue her stage career. She is cast as Hamlet in a cross-casting version of the Shakespearian play, in which Gilmore had already been cast. Walton does a good job, I believe, of distinguishing Viola's "voice" from that of her earlier character. She's not nearly as bubbly, nor witty, although there are some similarities, as both Viola and Lucy are born to the nobility, and have given up their privileges, though for different reasons.

While Lucy was innocent of any wrongdoing, Viola is a reluctant participant in the conspiracy that surrounds Gilmore's death. One of her sisters, Cressida, is a communist, and she drags Viola into the plot to kill Prime Minister Normanby and Hitler, together, on a visit by the Fuhrer to England, when he attends opening night of Hamlet.

As Inspector Carmichael and his sidekick, Seargant Royston, work their way through finding the details of the conspiracy and the conspirators, Viola slowly discovers the truth about the Reich and eventually becomes a willing accessory to murder and treason.

As in the first novel, things don't work out the way I had hoped they might, and I was a little upset about the way things ended. It does, however, make me hungry for the sequel, so I can find out how everything resolves...if it's the last one.

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