Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is one of the most aptly named novels I've read. The main characters, Noel and Vera (Vee for short), are grifters, and yet they're not thoroughly morally corrupt--in fact, at times they're downright heartwarming.
Noel is 10 years old and lives with his godmother, Mattie, in London in the weeks leading up to WWII. It's clear from the get-go that Mattie is struggling with dementia at a time when people didn't know much about it--and certainly Noel, at his age, doesn't understand, except in the sense that he feels like he needs to protect her. He doesn't realize the full danger of what's happening, namely: children are being evacuated from London, but Mattie, in her dementia, refuses to believe war is coming, and refuses to let Noel go.
That's not going to end well, and Noel ends up being sent to a northern suburb of London, where Vee takes him on because she needs the money provided to families who take in evacuees. In fact, Vee needs a lot more money than that. Desperately trying to keep her family (herself, elderly mother, and adult son who seems to lack much motivation to do anything) intact, she takes on various schemes to get money, but she doesn't have the planning skills or forethought to make them work. As it turns out, however, Noel does.
I've read several reviews that complain about Vee's crimes and call her unlikable. I have to admit, that puzzles me; Vee shows remorse on several occasions, and she's doing all she can think of to hang on to her life. I found her very likable, especially as her relationship with Noel, whose life with Mattie made him an adult before his time, begins to grow and deepen.
Vee and Noel are the heart--crooked and not--of the story. There are subplots involving letters Vee's mother writes to various politicians, and some secret shady dealings that her son is involved in, but their characters aren't as fully fleshed out as Vee and Noel. I wouldn't have minded either not having those two characters, or having them more fully explored.
Still, a WWII novel that's not on a battlefront and shows the effect that war has on the families left behind trying to cope, is worth a read, especially when it's as funny and sharp as this one is.