Author: Mark Ellis

Publisher: London Wall Publishing
ISBN-10: 099299439X
  ISBN-13: 978-0992994396

Stalin’s Gold opens rather differently from the other two DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Frank Merlin novels published to date. Princes Gate, volume one of the series, and Merlin at War, volume 3,   start off with Merlin and his four person Scotland Yard unit investigating murders in London during World War II. 

But, set primarily in London in September 1940, the first hundred pages or so of Stalin’s Gold has Mark Ellis painting an elaborate canvas where he provides considerable detail about the life of Anglo-Spanish Merlin and his much younger Polish girlfriend, Sonia, her fighter pilot brother, Jan, and a number of other characters, some Russian, many Polish, many British . As the panorama unfolds, we are shown how Londoners dealt with the first months of the Nazi bombing of their city and we witness some dog fights in the skies as well as some criminal activity as looters seek treasures in bombed out homes and businesses. 

The first investigation Merlin conducts isn’t official business, but instead he looks for a missing Polish airman at the request of Sonia’s brother.   As his boss is very concerned about looting, Merlin stumbles on one such gang in one destroyed house where he discovers a mysterious ingot of gold. It isn’t long before these two cases become intertwined as a number of gold bars went missing in Poland, might now be hidden somewhere in London,  and Russian spies are on the prowl to track them down. It isn’t long before Polish agents and Russian agents, along with a few English accomplices, are vying with each other to have possession of a lorry-full of gold. According to the Russians, a family of poles stole the gold from them in the early days of the war. According to the Poles, the gold was in the possession of that rich family for generations.

As with the other two Merlin mysteries,  Elis is especially good at capturing the spirit of the times and places of his various stories. Showing considerable verisimilitude, it is obvious Ellis has immersed himself in the era and settings he explores. He’s also good at setting up his chess pieces and coordinating the movements of all his interwoven groups of players. Few characters are either black or white but are, for the most part, sketched with multi-dimensional depth.     

Stalin’s Gold really should be read in sequence, in between the other two Merlin outings. It’s not vital readers do this, but that would help keeping track of some of the supporting characters in Merlin’s department and home life.  However you do it, the DCI Frank Merlin novels are for those who like richly detailed historical fiction, international intrigue, murder mysteries, and World War II yarns, especially those set on the home front.

Wes Britton’s review of book 1 of the series, Princes Gate, can be read  HERE:

Wes Britton’s review of book 3, Merlin at War, was posted HERE