When a brilliant emigré scientist is killed by a hit-and-run driver and a young woman's body is washed up in the Thames, Merlin and his team must investigate. The woman is an employee of the American embassy, whose ambassador at this time is Joseph Kennedy.
DCI Merlin's investigation of diplomats at the embassy ruffles feathers at the foreign office - the American ambassador is a well-known supporter of appeasement, and many powerful and influential Britons favour the pursuit of a negotiated peace settlement with Hitler.
The death of another embassy employee leads Merlin into some of the seedier quarters of wartime London, where a corrupt nightclub owner, various high-flying diplomats, and the ambassador himself appear to be linked to the events surrounding the deaths.
Merlin has to pursue his detective work under the interfering supervision of an assistant metropolitan commissioner who is fearful about the impact of Merlin's investigations on Anglo-American relations at a time when America represents to many Britain's only hope of salvation.
Capturing the atmosphere of Britain in 1940 during the 'phoney war' when, although war rages on the continent, life continues relatively peacefully in Britain, Princes Gate is an enthralling detective novel.
"A skillful blending of the factual with a neat mystery. An engaging protagonist in Frank Merlin will be worth looking out for in the future." (Bookbag)
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Hippos English Mystery
- Carol S
I wanted to like it
I love books set in this period, but listening to this it felt like the author had done some research on London during the Blitz, and then made a list of things to reference. He then went down the list, checking off items - driving in blackout, check! Bomb shelter, check! Upper class house party, check...The characters were just as 2 dimensional as the setting, and there were too many of them. Clearly most of them were there to appear on stage - the refugee Jew, the two thugs, the chinless wonders, the country girls in town to do their war service, the emotionally scarred DI, and many, many more. Did I say many?
Funnily enough, I might. He had some good ideas, and a clever plot, but it was like sitting around with someone telling you their idea for a book - "What if I wrote a book about the US Embassy in London in the run-up to America getting involved in the war and all the various residents from Joseph Kennedy on down to the lowliest typist?". And then he did research about the period, but didn't bother to flesh out the characters.Oh, and it was way too easy to figure out who dunnit. Authors have to play fair in mysteries and give clues, but these weren't subtle hints, they were flashing lights and sirens saying "This one's a Bad Guy! and this one! and this one!" I am usually hopeless at solving the mystery until the very end, and if *I* figure it out early on it is as subtle as a dead skunk!
He wasn't that bad. I don't know if anyone else could have improved the book.
None of them, or all of them. None was developed enough to care about.
I hope this was a book from Mark Ellis's early writing career and he got better with practice. It showed enough potential I was disappointed instead of just going meh and tossing it.
- Annie Fitt