Friday, May 27, 2016

Review of Stalin’s Gold by Mark Ellis (Troubador, 2014)

1938 and during the transfer of gold bullion and treasures from Spanish republicans to Russia a couple of crates go missing.  Stalin orders Beria to track it down and recover the haul.  Two years later the Battle for Britain is raging and London is experiencing the full force of the blitz.  Along with their other duties, DCI Frank Merlin’s team has been instructed to get a grip on the looting of bomb sites.  In addition, Merlin has taken on the task of finding missing Polish RAF pilot Ziggy Kilinski, who seems to have some connection to the Polish government-in-exile.  That government has been funded in part by gold bullion transferred out of the country, bullion that a Russian émigré has a keen interest in.  With the bombs falling on a burning city, Merlin tries to get to the bottom of a case that involves common thievery and political intrigue.

Stalin’s Gold in the second book in the DCI Frank Merlin series set in London during the Second World War.  At one level there’s quite a bit going on in the tale which entangles Polish aristocratic exiles and RAF pilots, Russian gangsters and political agents, local criminal looters, and the police, centred around some missing gold bullion.  At another, the whole story is quite strongly telegraphed, meaning that there is not much mystery or surprise to the tale.  Moreover the tale is held together in a web of coincidences, such as Merlin finding some gold in a bomb site and the looter’s also being connected to the Russians, and there are a number of scenes that do not move the story forward.  To a degree these don’t really matter as it’s still an enjoyable read, Merlin continues to be a likeable character, the tale is interesting, and the context with respect to the war is nicely done, but I felt they took the edge off what could have been a more intriguing story with respect to how the mystery is revealed to the reader. 

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