21 May 2024

Creasey’s Characters: Department Z

The Department Z series contains 28 titles. Department Z is a British Intelligence agency consisting of an ultra-secret collection of civilians. Gordon Craigie and his band of young, intrepid agents guard the nation from espionage. These thriller, mystery, and pacey spy novels are set before, during and after World War Two. Department Z consists of top-secret civilians who bravely fight against enemies of the crown from the corridors of Whitehall, pursuing them to countryside mansions and the fields of foreign lands. In many respects it is an elite English detective agency trying to identify and solve international conspiracies.

Department Z was formed in the 1930s when the British government realised it needed an organisation to help in the troubling international times ahead. War was brewing and spies, double agents and troublemakers were everywhere. The official groups were too high profile and well known to handle the super strange or sensitive cases – this is where Department Z came in.

It is a solid rule throughout the life of the department that only single men need apply, unencumbered by worry about spouses or children at home. The members of Department Z are described as bachelors with a suicidal mind set. To outsiders, they appear to be mere dandies and men about town, gliding through life with their wealth and charm. Secretly though, they are brave, committed warriors poised to make the ultimate sacrifice on a highly risky mission of international importance.

The first Department Z books, written before the Second World War, are remarkable for their political insight. Creasey is in prophet mode again, this time predicting the dangers of the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini before many politicians were acknowledging the problem. The books set in the Second World War are filled with the tension, fear and danger of those dark days, while the post-war books show another threat to the Department: political pressure that their usefulness is increasingly redundant. At the end of the war, like their real-life MI6 counterparts, Department Z are tasked with rooting out Soviet infiltrators whilst defending their organisation from meddling bureaucrats.

Across the series the casts of characters change and develop, with Craigie as the key agent tying the series together without being overly dominant. This is very much an ensemble piece. One leading figure is killed, another gets married and so has to retire, and another is put out of action by severe injury but returns as a voice of experience and advice. In one novel, The Enemy Within, the villain is avenging the death of his father who died in the service of Department Z.

Read more and purchase the Department Z titles here.