Something's rotten in the state of England. Ha'penny
starts about two weeks after the Farthing case in part #1. And once again Walton alternates between a female first person narrator – Viola Lark, ex-Larkin, peer's daughter gone actress – and Carmichael's third person limited POV. When a bomb tears a famous actress to pieces, Carmichael finds himself with a new case. Soon he has to face another conspiracy, one that Viola herself is being swept away with. But this time, the conspirators aim for the Bad Ones.
Somehow, this one didn't grab me like [b:Farthing|183740|Farthing (Small Change, #1)|Jo Walton|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1442714837s/183740.jpg|1884104]
The plot isn't all that original, and neither is the execution. Walton tackles the old questions: How far are you willing to go fighting for what you believe in? And how far if you don't believe at all, but are forced to act?
Both Viola and Carmichael find themselves caught up in circumstances where third parties force their hands. Both are made to do things they don't believe in. This could make for a riveting plot, but I didn't feel as emotionally involved, as ethically challenged as when, let's say, reading [b:First Against the Wall|7937238|First Against the Wall (The Administration, #6)|Manna Francis|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1272495303s/7937238.jpg|11343375]
(the comparison is a bit unfair; not only has FatW a completely different plot and is set in The Future(TM), it also has five books of built-up. Plenty of time to choose sides, to choose people to like and people to hate).
Maybe it was just due to the heatwave during the last few days that I couldn't be arsed to feel invested in anything else than ice-cream. The stakes certainly are high here, but it never really felt that way. First of all, there was little to no suspense. I didn't know what was going to happen exactly, but I did know Viola would live long enough to tell the tale. And there's a part #3, so... no real suspense. Not until the last 50 pages, at least, where all the cozy went very bleak very fast and culminated in bitter irony. That
I could appreciate.
The second reason I already mentioned above: while the characters face ethical challenges, I didn't. By all means, lets kill Hitler? Not necessarily a good idea, I did read [b:Making History|317457|Making History|Stephen Fry|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1355932489s/317457.jpg|1384]
after all. But that's exactly the thing, Ha'penny
is alternative history
- it never happened, never will. Yes, I can see how it relates to today, I can see this very well (we have an election coming up this weekend, and people's recent fears will influence it not for the better, that much's for certain). But I just couldn't bring myself to care if that damned bomb detonated or not.
The third and last reason is Viola's own lack of emotional involvement. The only thing she's even remotely passionate about is acting. (Oh, and ice-cream. We have that in common, at least.) Everything else she treats with the same enthusiasm: none at all. Which makes her infatuation with Devlin all the more curious; when telling her story she seems completely blasé about it. Somehow that rubbed off on me.
Of course it's still a very good book, not only a filler, even though it's not as smoothly written as Farthing
. I enjoyed the bits about the cross-casted Hamlet
, I enjoyed to see a more private side of Carmichael as well as his interactions with Royston; their work-relationship is a bit strained after the Farthing case, but their dialogues are a delight. And, because I'm just that kind of person, I liked this terrible, terrible end – because it sets the scene for part #3 so nicely.