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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Princes Gate by Mark Ellis

Princes Gate is a new series set in London during the "phoney war," that period between Sept., 1939 and May, 1940.  Poland had been attacked, and the Germans were in the process of occupying the country.  Britain and France declared war on Germany, but no significant offensive took place.   On May 10, Germany occupied Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and that was the end of the 
phoney war.

After Poland's demise, blackout measure were put in effect (and it would be 6 years before lights were again allowed after dark), evacuations planned, shelters prepared, and rationing begun, though not yet as strict as it would be.

It is during the phoney war that Princes Gate takes place. Frank Merlin is a detective who is saddled with too many cases and too few resources since many on the force have already enlisted.  Two new cases occur:  the hit-and-run death of an emigre scientist and a young woman who had worked in the American Embassy.  These cases take priority for several reasons, but the case involving the American Embassy is especially troublesome--because Ambassador Joseph Kennedy is one of the biggest proponents for appeasement with Hitler and has aspirations of defeating Roosevelt in the next election.

Kennedy is not in the country at the time, but his opinions (and one of his minions) make investigating the murder of the young woman particularly sensitive, and numerous road-blocks are put in place.  Well-written and well-researched, the novel plays large on the positions of both Kennedy and British proponents of appeasement.   The atmosphere of the time feels realistic and palpable.

I look forward to more from this author, and more about DI Frank Merlin!


Crime/Historic Fiction.  June 1, 2014.  Print length:  329 pages.


  1. Thank you for bringing this novel to my attention. I haven't read much about the "phoney war," and this sounds intriguing. I'll add it to my wish list in hopes of getting my hands on it -- and reviewing it -- eventually. :-)

  2. The civilian crime side of WW2 seems to have been rather neglected until lately when there's been an explosion of crime novels. This one sounds like I'd enjoy it a lot - thanks!

  3. Irene - I'm always interested in both fiction and nonfiction about WWII. Have you read C.J. Sansom's Dominion or Jo Walton's Farthing? Interesting alternate histories about what might have happened if the appeasers had triumphed.

    Vicki - I've noticed a few of these. I tend to gravitate to both crime and WWII, so the combination appeals! :)

  4. A crime novel set at the around the time of World War II? I'm there! I hadn't heard of this book before, but it sounds like a good one. I am glad you liked it, Jenclair.

  5. The influence of those who wanted to avoid a war they thought would be lost is interesting. Britain was only about 20 years away from the previous war which had devastating consequences.

    The inclusion of Ambassador Kennedy was also interesting. If his opinions had prevailed, America would never have entered the war.