Verdict: 1939 – THE PHANTOM ZEPPELIN is a great beach read for the pre-teen or teenage reader who wants a ripping adventure with solid historical background.
Christopher Finch has always been told he is a lucky boy, and he believes it. His family is wealthy and well-connected – his father is an American diplomat and his mother an English journalist. He himself has traveled all over the world, and is fluent in a number of languages, including Arabic, German, French, and Spanish. He especially loves to sit with his mother’s father, the Sergeant-Major, and listen to his tales of war against the Zulus. But when he is asked to meet with a friend of the Sergeant-Major’s on his behalf, he finds himself drawn into the service of that friend – one Winston Churchill, a politician trying to find evidence of German expansionism and warmongering. Can Christopher manage to use his skills for the good of both his countries, to save the world from Adolf Hitler?
1939 – THE PHANTOM ZEPPELIN is a novel for those who are nostalgic for wholesome, heroic boys’ spy novels, with a plucky and adventurous hero, a noble cause, lots of exciting action, and cameos by famous political figures. Christopher is in just the right place at the right time to meet all sorts of interesting friends, from Indian princesses (with, of course, the requisite stern, stoic Sikh bodyguard) to exiled Albanian kings, and is blessed with the perfect range of skills, family connections, and opportunities to be the perfect child spy.
The action is vigorous and fast-paced, with lots of world travel, from England to Palestine to America to Germany and back again, clever codebreaking, daring escapes, and important historical events. There’s a bit too much foreshadowing in certain places, Christopher can be a bit too much the Ideal Boy Hero at times, and the action can be both predictable and improbably heroic (especially with respect to the aerial chase sequence near the end).It’s definitely a book made to a good old traditional pattern, with a number of stereotyped stock characters (the old veteran grandfather, the daring female journalist, the spunky Texas cowgirl, etc.). It’s also rather too scattered – the book jumps from one place, goal, and set of characters to another too suddenly, and too often, and the epilogue skips ahead rather too far. It is still, however, a lively and entertaining book.
1939 – THE PHANTOM ZEPPELIN is a great beach read for the pre-teen or teenage reader who wants a ripping adventure with solid historical background.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader