This convoluted mix of reality and fiction is essentially a biographical narrative in the life of John Holderness as he transforms himself from an East London burglar to a British intelligence man working under the tutelage of Lieutenant Colonel Burne-Jones. The story opens on the eye of President Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Berlin then moves backward to London in 1941 and slowly progresses till all the strands in the narrative lead to a conclusion in 1963, Berlin.
This book is far from the ordinary spy- thriller American novelists are so famous for. Missing are the spectacular stunts, the blow outs, the mysterious escapes, and the beautiful damsel in distress. The theme and atmosphere are compelling, after all Europe is ravaged by the atrocities of war, lives are shattered and it is a race to obtain the services of nuclear scientists. This book is meaty and richly written to highlight the tragic circumstances that divided Berlin into East and West sections and how smuggling goods and people was a way of life. The author goes all out for us to visualize every movement and for us to know his characters, well indeed he takes is merry time to make his points. I was hoping the pacing would eventually pick up but it never did and with a meandering mind I finally made it to where the story abruptly stopped and I was left wondering what came next…..Oh maybe a sequel will wrap up the loose ends one day…..
I did find the historical descriptions to be quite interesting even if Mr. Lawton’s vision was far from being my cup of tea. Unfortunately I cannot say this was one of my better read.…..