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In April 1941, Wolfgang Stahl, an American spy posing as a German SS officer, flees Germany when he senses his cover is blown. To throw the Germans off, he plants his identity papers on the body of a man who died in his house during an air raid. News of Stahl’s supposed death is brought to Stahl’s supervisor in the SS, who refuses to believe it is actually Stahl until the corpse’s hands are brought to him. Dubious, he launches a search for Stahl, who in the meantime has left Germany. News of Stahl’s death reaches Calvin “Cal” Cormack, Stahl’s liaison in the US State Department. Cormack is instructed to go to London where he will help Special Branch officer Walter Stilton track Stahl down. Unlike the shy, somewhat sheltered Cormack, who is the son of an aristrocratic isolationist congr3ssman, Stilton is a gregarious, cockney-slinging working class Englishman, the father of a large military family that includes a policewoman daughter- the rambunctious, carefree sexpot Kitty, who quickly seduces Cormack when Stilton takes him home for dinner, much to Cormack’s comical discomfort.
Stilton and Cormack begin their search by focusing on a man who has gone missing off of a Swedish merchant vessel. Things are complicated when they discover that Smulders, another German spy they have been shadowing (presumably sent to London as an assassin), has been killed-choked and thrown down a flight of stairs. Was Smulders sent by the Germans to assassinate Stahl?
Stilton goes to his Czech informant Hudge’s house to ask him whether he had seen Stahl or the dead spy Smulders that week. Hudge reveals that he saw them at the pub talking to Fish Wally, a Polish engineer who fled the Germans when they invaded Poland and is now working as a police informant of sorts. Fish Wally reveals that Smulders asked him for lodging and he referred him to his cousin, Cash Wally, a boarder, who reveals that Stahl left earlier that day.
There is a report that Stahl has been spotted in a flat. Stilton and Cormack go to check it out. While they are scouring the apartment, a man in a black hat charges Stilton, forcing Cormack to fire at the man. It turns out that the man was not Stahl, but a German spy posing as a Brit. Cormack and Stilton hypothesize that he was also sent to kill Stahl. They figure the man’s papers were forged in Germany, but that his ration book was counterfeited right in London. They go to the notorious counterfeiter Lawrence Forsyte and pressure him into revealing that he sold the ration book to Fish Wally, who in turn sold the ration book to the German spies, believing they were Czech exiles. Fish Wally also reveals that he suggested that Stahl get a room at the Welsh Widow.
Cormack receives a note from Stilton telling him to meet him in the alley behind a pub. When Cormack arrives there, Stilton is dead, shot in the head. The devastated Stilton uses the phone to call the police and Inspector Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard arrives. After Troy leaves the scene, Cormack is taken into custody as a suspect by detective Nailer, a hard-nosed Special Forces goon who is more interested in detaining a suspect for show than in finding the actual killer. Cormack is let off the hook, though, when Troy returns to exhonorate him via a ballistics test that indicates Cormack was not the gunman. Meanwhile Stilton’s daughter Kitty, who once carried on an affair with Troy and has been toying with him throughout the book even as she hooks up with Cormack, asks Troy to find her father’s killer.
Cormack has a run-in with Stahl in the London underground. It turns out that Stilton had tracked Stahl down the night before he died, and that Stilton had intended a meeting between himself, Stahl, and Cormack, hence his note to Cormack inviting him to the alley behind the pub. Stahl watched from the shadows as Stilton was killed, hopeless to intervene. He did not see the face of the killer, but he did see that he was wearing brown shoes much like Cormack’s own, meaning the killer was probably a member of the American Embassy- most likely the American who betrayed Stahl to the Germans. (Meaning, of course, that there is a German spy among Cormack’s colleagues.)
Inspector Troy deduces that the embassy worker who killed Stilton probably found out about the meeting place by reading Stilton’s note when it was sitting in Cormack’s in-box at the embassy. Troy decides to plant another note in Cormack’s in-box, this one saying that they have found Stahl (who is presumably the man the German spy has been looking for) and thereby luring Stahl’s pursuer to an abandoned warehouse where Troy and Cormack will jump him. When Troy finally gets to the warehouse with Kitty, however, he is late, and he finds Stahl bleeding, still alive, on the ground. The American embassy worker- a one Frank Reininger- is barely clutching to life and Cormack is tied up in a corner. Cormack explains that he entered the warehouse and was immediately tied up by Reininger, after which Sttttttahl burst in and engaged Reininger in a gun battle. It was then that Troy showed up.
After things die down, Cormack’s superior at the State Department reveals to him that Cormack’s own father, the isolationist congressman, was in cahoots with a Nazi-sympathizer organization that Reininger belonged to, and that Cormack should dissuade his father from seeking reelection. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Kitty is pregnant with Cormack’s baby and Cormack decides to marry her.
The pressure finally gets to Stahl and he kills himself by jumping out a window. Before this, however, he reveals that the Germans are planning a massive attack on Russia at a certain date. The Americans, who have not yet officially entered the war, decide not to tell Russia. Britain also decides it would be useless, since they warned Stalin previously and were brushed off. But when Inspector Troy reveals the date of the invasion to his father Alex Troy, a famous Soviet expat turned newspaper columnist, Alex publishes the date in code in his column, forcing Winston Churchill to warn Stalin of the date. Again, he is brushed off and the Germans end up invading Russia.

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Bluffing Mr. Churchill
Average rating
3 / 5
Bluffing Mr. Churchill
June 25th, 2015
Lenghthy... several plots going at one time. Historically accurate relating to the early days of WW II. Characters well developed.
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