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Bluffing Mr. Churchill [Paperback]

John Lawton
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 31 2012 Inspector Troy Thriller
It is 1941. Wolfgang Stahl, an American spy operating undercover as an SS officer, has just fled Germany with Hitler's henchmen on his trail. He is carrying valuable cargo--the blueprint of the Fuhrer's secret plan to invade Russia. Stahl's man in the American embassy, the shy and sheltered Calvin M. Cormack, is teamed with a boisterous MI5 officer, Walter Stilton, to find the spy and bring him to safety. Their investigation takes them across war-torn London, from the shelled-out blocks to the ubiquitous pubs to the underground counterfeiting shops; and in Cormack's case, into the arms of Kitty, his partner's rambunctious daughter. As Cormack and Stilton close in on Stahl, bodies begin turning up--and the duo realize they may not be the only ones in pursuit of the spy. Someone, it seems, wants the German dead. When his partner is suddenly murdered in the line of duty, Cormack must turn to the ingenious devices of his lover Kitty's old flame--Sergeant Troy of Scotland Yard. Together, they investigate the trail of murders and are forced to ask themselves a horrifying question--are Cormack and his spy being played by one of their own in the American embassy?
Brilliantly re-creating London in the time of ration tickets and clothing coupons, Bluffing Mr. Churchill is a blistering page-turned peopled by magnetic characters.

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Bluffing Mr. Churchill + A Little White Death + Second Violin: An Inspector Troy Thriller
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From Publishers Weekly

In this stimulating prequel to Lawton's acclaimed Inspector Troy series (Black Out; Old Flames; etc.), London is in the middle of the blitz and 25-year-old Freddie Troy is a Scotland Yard sergeant, chafing at the limits of his post. As the novel begins, he is relegated to the background, the focus instead on a gawky American named Calvin Cormack, who has come to London to help find and debrief Wolfgang Stahl, a top aide to Hitler's SS chief, Heydrich, and a spy for the Americans who has been forced to flee Germany for England to avoid capture, carrying with him plans for the imminent German invasion of Russia. The seriously spooked Stahl disappears into the vast underground system of bombed-out London, accessible only to Walter Stilton, a wonderfully bluff old copper. Calvin (whose father is a U.S. senator working with Charles Lindbergh and the America First group to keep the U.S. out of the war) is quickly absorbed into the large Stilton family, winning the affections of oldest daughter Kitty, also a police officer. Kitty, as it happens, was previously involved with Freddie Troy (and hasn't given him up entirely); Freddie's ties to the family and Calvin become more complicated when tragedy strikes and Freddie is drawn into the search for Stahl. Lawton meshes comedy and suspense with skill and energy, and seamlessly mixes fictional creations with real characters like H.G. Wells, newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, Winston Churchill and distant cousin Robert Churchill (a talented gunsmith who plays a key role here), producing a distinctive, vigorous novel of wartime suspense.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the third escapade of aristocrat copper Freddie Troy to reach U.S. shores, it is spring 1941, and while Britain hunkers down under sporadic bombing and the daily privations of war, America and Russia look idly on with ill-fated apathy. High-ranking spy Wolfgang Stahl flees Berlin, and his American contact, Captain Cal Cormack, teams up in a transatlantic odd couple with hardy Chief Inspector Stilton, following the desultory trail of the turncoat Nazi and sundry other German spies and assassins dodging about the ruined hulks and malodorous bomb shelters of London. On the gangly frame of these Buchanesque exploits hang intriguing snippets of history, a bit of social comedy, and a teeming cast of odd birds, such as Winston Churchill's ballistics-whiz brother Bob and randy Kitty, "either naked or getting naked." Troy of the Murder Squad is attacked with a potato peeler whilst playing his rather incidental role. The suspense is fairly slack, and moments of gravity tend to ring hollow amid all the chipper stoicism, but no matter: there's a war on, mate! Or, as Stilton's oft-employed Dickensian tagline puts it, "Wot Larx!" David Wright
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars July 28 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A bit thin
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  57 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Jan. 17 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have to disagree. That last review is so misleading. Yes this is "Riptide" but it's a US first edition. I know. I read the small print. Prior to this it' s only been available as an expensive British import and it deserves better than a 2 line dismissal. I've no idea why the title changed, but does that matter?
It's a stunning picture of the England just before The US and the Russians entered the war. London is a city under seige, short of everything from food to shoes. That alone is reason enough to buy the book - there've been lots of historical thrillers on this same subject, but this is the best. Beyond that ... what really hooked me was the characterisation. It would have been so easy to have the American GI paired to the London cop read like a cliche and it's about a hundred times better than that. They leap off the page at you, vivid,real and engaging. A five star read.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's equally riveting whether it's called 'Riptide' or 'Bluffing Mr. Churchill' Feb. 13 2011
By the Peripatetic Gardener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Lawton's highly enjoyable Frederick Troy series stands out for several reasons. Troy, the son of a powerful newspaper publisher, doesn't quite fit into the stereotypical English mold. As to be expected, he is literate and articulate, cultured and almost moral, but our Freddie is no James Bond or even Albert Campion. He is merely Freddie, caught between his Russian heritage and the English environment, his education and his own inclinations.

'Bluffing Mr. Churchill' (or `Riptide' in Britain) is set in a wartime London. And Frederick Troy is for most of the novel a minor character. (Lawton, it appears enjoys tweaking the 'rules' of series writing: his Troy novels aren't chronological, Troy we're told at one point resembles James Mason [shudder, so not the alpha hero!], sympathetic characters sometimes fall afoul of the villains, and Troy doesn't always make the best decisions.) And here, the majority of the novel is devoted to other characters.

Briefly, 'Bluffing Mr. Churchill' is the story of Captain Cal Cormack, a bespectacled and seemingly ingenious American soldier and his partner, Chief Inspector Stilton, possibly the most delightful copper the reader will ever encounter. The pair is trying to beat Nazi assassins to Wolfgang Stahl, an American-run German agent who is somewhere in London.

Lawton's 1941 London comes alive. The devastation of the air raids, the pervading grief at the loss of life among both civilians and the military, the disruption of the social order and the undermining of the certainty that life as it has been will continue are carefully juggled with the English ability to find honor and courage and humor in the worst of situations. Lawton's novel is in many ways an entertaining social history rendered with sympathy and humor.

Five Stars. The bottom line: `Bluffing Mr. Churchill' is indeed a well written mystery set in World War II London and should have great appeal for those who enjoy period mysteries, but it is so much more. It is also a striking portrait of London and its people.

Since Lawton's novels sometimes have different titles in Britain and the USA, and since they're not written in a strict chronological order, here are two lists that may help; no promises, but I think I got it right.

Chronological Order (based on Troy's life): A Lily of the Field, Second Violin, Riptide (Bluffing Mr. Churchill), Black Out, Old Flames, Blue Rondo (Flesh Wounds), A Little White Death.

Publishing Order: Black Out, Old Flames, A Little White Death, Bluffing Mr. Churchill, Flesh Wounds, Second Violin, A Lilly of the Field.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on atmosphere, but the characters & plot didn't grab me Jan. 5 2005
By Tahl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I haven't read any of the other Inspector Troy novels; I picked up this one because the jacket's reviews were attractive. I realize now that the review excerpts focused on what I liked about the book (its terrific recreation of a time & place) and were silent on what didn't grab me (the characters & plot).

It's almost worth reading just for the "feel." This is what it must've been like to sit around the kitchen table of a middle-class London policeman in Spring of 1941.

But while the novel is literate and well-written, there's something distancing about it. I found Troy the less interesting and less sharply delineated of the two major characters (Troy and an American soldier, Cal Cormack), and Lawton spends much more time on Cormack. The spy / murder-mystery plot plays out without much momentum; better are the glimpses of the internal politics of the police force and diplomatic services.

I expect I'd like Bluffing Mr. Churchill much more if I already had some investment in the continuing characters. I doubt I'll hunt out the other books in the series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lawton Is Now on My "A" List Oct. 27 2004
By G. Styles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I began this series out of sequence with "Old Flames", a very clever 1950s spy thriller. This novel picks up Inspector Troy's career at an earlier stage, during WW II, but before the action of "Black Out". Though Troy doesn't get center stage, this is still an excellent story, with its fascinating picture of early 1940s London and the last few months before its two biggest players, the US and USSR, entered the war.

Recommended, in spite of a couple of others here thinking that a prior UK publication is grounds to knock a perfectly good novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed June 15 2014
By NYReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I started this book with high hopes I enjoy spy stories and love reading about WW2. It started out well and I was really getting into the story line. I had even put Lawton's other books on my reading list. Then he lost me almost half way through the book. My problem was with how he portrayed his only main female character Kitty. Lawton paints her as a tart whose only function seems to be hopping into bed with either Troy or Cormack. She is a police officer but shows little interest in the case both men and her father are involved in and when Cormack turns down sex with her because he has to work the case she sulks and runs to Troy to try to bed him. By that point almost half way through the book I gave up. I was offended by the way Lawton portrayed Kitty and no longer cared how the rest of the book ended. I will not be finishing the book or reading anymore of Lawton's books!
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