Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis

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Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis

Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: 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. Narrator of the audio version, Matt Addis, popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us and so did author Mark Ellis.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 328 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 978-1848766570

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In the early part of the Second World War there was a lull, when hostilities didn't really seem to get going – the so-called Phoney War. Some Londoners, who'd left the capital in the expectation of early bombing raids, began drifting back and there were still those who thought that peace could be negotiated – that we could stay out of the fight. Chief amongst those outside of the political classes who supported this view was the American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy. Kennedy was, perhaps fortunately but not unusually, out of the country when one of the staff at the residence was murdered and her body fished out of the Thames.

DCI Frank Merlin was the investigating officer and he and his team were in search of the murderer as well as the driver of a car involved in a hit-and-run accident which resulted in the death of a prominent scientist. In both cases they're surrounded by secrecy and people who would prefer to hide their lives behind a cloak of diplomatic immunity. Merlin has to tread a delicate path – no mean feat for a man whose even temper is not his strongest attribute. It gets tougher when another member of staff at the residence is murdered.

I liked Merlin – a widower who would really like to join up but who can't be released from the police force. He doesn't have a drink problem. He gets on reasonably well with his superior officers and he's not a womaniser. Yes – he's an original and someone you could relate to. I believed in his team too – decent coppers trying to do a job rather than a set of characters.

The story seamlessly blends fact and fiction. Joe Kennedy was Ambassador and his views on appeasement and on Britain's likely chances were only too well-known. His other, less-endearing (if that's possible) characteristics have been caught too – and used to good effect to build the story. As for the fictional characters, they're an engaging mix of the young, the naïve and the louche. It's an engaging story which sits well in the murk (sometimes quite literally so) that was London at the time. I enjoyed he book and I'd like to hear more from DCI Frank Merlin.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

UPDATE: July 2015

It's some four years since I read this book but I've now had the opportunity to listen to an audio download, narrated by Matt Addis, who is absolutely superb. For the first time I really understood the meaning of the phrase a voice actor. There's a considerable cast of characters in Princes Gate but Addis brings each one of them to life as individuals: I felt as though I was listening to a play with accompanying narration: it is extremely skillful. I knew how the story ended, but the plot is strong enough to carry the weight of a reader who knows the how and why. I listened for just over ten hours over two days and enjoyed every minute. If you're considering the audio download, you could increase the star rating to 4½.

The phoney war didn't last for long – for a look at what happened when the blitz devastated London we can recommend Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel.

Mark Ellis's DCI Frank Merlin novels in chronological order

Bookinterviews.jpg Mark Ellis was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag. Bookinterviews.jpg Matt Addis was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Frank Merlin: Princes Gate by Mark Ellis at Amazon.com.


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