Half a crown by

A week before she was due to bring me out, I overheard Mrs. Maynard saying I was "not quite"..."
–Jo Walton - Half a crown - c.2008, 2014

Small Change ; book three.
Peter Carmichael is commander of the Watch, Britain’s distinctly British secret police. It’s his job to warn the Prime Minister of treason, to arrest plotters, and to discover Jews. The midnight knock of a Watchman is the most dreaded sound in the realm.

Now, in 1960, a global peace conference is convening in London, where Britain, Germany, and Japan will oversee the final partition of the world. Hitler is once again on British soil. So is the long exiled Duke of Windsor—and the rising gangs of “British Power” streetfighters, who consider the Government “soft,” may be the former king’s bid to stage a coup d’état.

Amidst all this, two of the most unlikely persons in the realm will join forces to oppose the fascists: a debutante whose greatest worry until now has been where to find the right string of pearls, and the Watch Commander himself.

Half a Crown (Small Change, #3)This really is a fascinating set of book, I really enjoyed Walton’s depiction of the growth of fascism and how easy it was for Britain to create undesirables of its own and persecute them.

And I thought that Carmichael was a wonderful character. A good man at the start certainly, but how does anyone stay “good” in a society that rewards and promotes evil, that persecutes the righteous? If you only do what is right you will be persecuted, perhaps killed yourself, how does that help anyone? Maybe you go along, keeping your head down, doing as little evil as possible. Or maybe you’ll do a little evil in the hopes of preventing a bigger evil? There’s no easy answer there.

And that aspect of the book, of all the books in this trilogy is really interesting to me.

In this one the other narrator is Elvira, you may recognise the name is you’ve read the other two books, she is Royston’s daughter. All grown up now and about to make her entrance to society, about to be presented to the queen. She’s grown up under a fascist government, she knows no other way of life really, its all “fun” to her. At the start anyway, she slowly learns that what she’s been taught all her life is wrong and she’ll have to grow up a lot in this book.

For most of this book I loved it, just as much as the previous two. It is well written, gripping, tense and atmospheric. Unfortunately the ending fell a bit short for me. I also wish that a bit more of Carmichael’s private life could have been explored over the three books, but I understand how that could have taken away from the detective aspect of the novel.
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Overall however I would still recommend these books, the first one is good, the second great and most of this one is great too. And I can understand why the ending was the way it was, even if I don’t agree with it. Show Spoiler ▼

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