Rory Clements is fast becoming an author I turn to when I need a page-turning read to relax into. A Prince and a Spy is fifth in his Tom Wilde Second World War series and it doesn’t disappoint. Woven into true history of the conflict – the fatal crash in Scotland of the Duke of Kent’s plane, the holocaust – Clements adds real and fictional characters, intrigue and competing spies, to make this an enjoyable read.
When history professor Wilde returns by train home to Cambridge he bumps into a former student. Cazerove seems distracted, distressed, munching on a bag of sweets. Before the train reaches its destination, Cazerove dies of poisoning. So begins a typical Clements thriller – strong characters, true history and a string of unrelated incidents. When the Duke of Kent’s plane crashes on a remote hill in Scotland, the public is told his plane came down in heavy fog when taking off for Iceland on operational duties. In the world of A Prince and a Spy, the flying boat was returning from a secret diplomatic mission in Sweden where the Duke met his German cousin, a former member of the Nazi party. Wilde, working for the newly-established American secret intelligence service, OSS, is sent to Scotland to sniff around at the crash site and ask questions on behalf of his president. FDR wants to know why the plane crashed, was Prince George at the controls, was it shot down, and how did one person survive?
A keynote of this series is the multi-layering of rival spy agencies in the UK – the British, the Americans – the infiltration of Nazi agents, Soviet agitators and, in this book, a secret society. Clements is excellent at showing history through the eyes of fictional characters, a challenging task, and I particularly liked the Scottish segment with fisherman Jimmy Orde. A continuing thread from book to book is Wilde’s relationship with his partner Lydia, and Philip Eaton, the British spy who first involved Wilde in espionage. Clements twists reality in this book so Wilde doesn’t know who to trust, who to believe, and who is spying on him. So much so that at times, I lost track too.
An excellent weekend read.
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