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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.
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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.