A Prince and a Spy was published this year (2021) by Pegasus Books. It is set during World War II and the basis of the story is an actual historical event.
In 1942, Prince George, Duke of Kent and Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, died when his military plane crashed in Scotland on its way to Iceland. There has been speculation about the crash ever since and the author has been fascinated by the event for many years. He said in an interview:
‘Very little was made of it at the time, and the plane crash that killed him has never been properly explained. Britain’s finest pilots were at the controls of a plane which was in perfect working order – and the plane had plenty of time to reach a safe height. So why did it crash into a hillside a mere 600 feet high?’
Rory Clements obviously has a very good knowledge of this historical time period which is evident throughout the book and he provides his own speculative theory that the Prince was murdered.
A Prince and a Spy is the fifth spy thriller by the author featuring Professor Tom Wilde, an American Intelligence agent and historian residing in Cambridge, England. It is the first book by the author that I have read but it stands alone even if like me you haven’t read any of the other books in the series.
I won’t go into the plot, but it was a little reminiscent of John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, although that was a Cold War novel. The networks of conspiracies, spies, moles, traitors; blackmailing of perpetrators of s*xual indiscretions and seedy behaviour are along similar lines although Le Carré is more complex and detailed.
I thought most of the characters in The Prince and the Spy were quite realistic but there were two that I thought didn’t ring true. One was Miss Hartwell, a ‘beautiful woman’ who lets us know that men were always attracted to her – and she tells Wilde this on a couple of occasions, just so he knows…
Unlike a James Bond type character, Wilde loves his common law wife and young son and doesn’t succumb to her hints, even though he is supposedly tempted – why?? Just leave the man alone. She was a clichéd sort of character who probably should have just been an ordinary looking woman and it would have worked better.
In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the bad eggs were so well hidden that it was a real surprise when their treachery was revealed. It was more obvious in The Prince and the Spy so duplicity wasn’t an unexpected revelation with one of the characters. A bit more subtlety would have added to the intrigue.
Apart from the small characterisation element I mentioned above, Rory Clements has crafted a wartime spy thriller that becomes quite a page turner as it progresses. I enjoyed the World War II setting and the author’s historical note at the end. One good sign of an author’s ability to craft a realistic narrative is when you start going down rabbit holes after you’ve read the book trying to find out who was a real historical figure and who was a product of the author’s imagination – Prince Philipp von Hessen, Flight Sergeant Andrew Jack, and Heinrich Muller, for example.
Some background on Prince George and the crash that killed him.
My thanks to Pegasus Books for supplying me with a copy of this book for review.
To find out more about the author and his other books as well as his page, ‘The World of Tom Wilde’ showing Cambridge University life as it was in the 1930’s, see his website.