Farthing by Jo Walton (2006)
Farthing, the start of the Small Change alternate history series, was nominated for the Nebula, John W Campbell Memorial, and Sidewise awards (among others). Adrienne Martini was typical of the book’s reviewers:
Despite the parallels to today’s current political climate (just substitute “Liberal” for “Communist”), the murder mystery is the spine from which the rest of the book moves. A Scotland Yard inspector, who has his own reasons to avoid prying eyes, is brought in and the narration alternates between his point of view and Lucy’s. It’s an effective technique and one that keeps you flipping through pages, despite the fact that the identity of the murderer is fairly well telegraphed in the first few pages. Lucy and the inspector make you want to know why it was done and, more importantly, what will be done about it.
But Farthing is also a book about fascism and the parallels between her Britain and today’s climate is never didactic and always effective. It’s also a book about husbands and wives, however, and about class and sex. It is quite an achievement, brothers and sisters. Hallelujah.
See also Paul Kincaid’s review from the New York Review of Science Fiction; Sherwood Smith at SF Site; David Soyka in the Internet Review of SF; and (with a few reservations) Dan Hartland at Strange Horizons.
Ranking calculated from 101 responses to a poll run during October, November and December 2010.