Category Archives: Coldwar

Review of BERLIN: Caught in the Mousetrap (The Schultz family story Book 1) by Paul Grant

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An amazing debut

Paul Grant’s debut book is set in Berlin just as the wall is built in 1961 and realistically captures the febrile atmosphere within the city as the political tensions ramp up in both halves of the city.

We’re quickly introduced to a variety of characters including American reporter Jack, his girlfriend Eva who resides in East Berlin, as well as Colonel Hans Erdmann of the People’s Army and KGB spymasters, Burzin and Dobrovsky.

Grant has clearly done his research and fleshes out details of the city and his characters with easy to read, but punchy prose. He doesn’t put a foot wrong with his knowledge of the history and his eye for descriptive detail.

I’m sometimes wary of self-published work, but this is real quality with characters you care about and a pacey plot that keep you turning the pages. This is a well crafted thriller that delivers great insight into the creation of the Berlin Wall alongside a compelling story.

I’m looking forward to reading the prequel “reaping the Whirlwind”

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Review of In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies by Howard Blum

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As good as any fictional spy thriller

Howard Blum tells the fascinating story the race to capture the Soviet spy ring that passed the secrets of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. The main characters are codebreaker Meredith Gardner and FBI agent Bob Lamphere, and Blum details how Gardner cracked fragments of the key Soviet codes, with Lamphere piecing them together to capture the Soviet spies.

The book reads like a novel and at places I did question how much this was based on fact or the authors suppositions, but at the end of the book Blum does assure the reader that all conversations or thoughts in the characters heads are backed up by documentary evidence.

It’s a pacey read, and to use a cliché quite a page turner. Although I was aware of many of the characters such as Klaus Fuchs, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Blum does provide rich character background that give more depth and insight than a dry analytical account of the process involved.

The book ends with the execution of the Rosenbergs which Lamphere and Gardner were unable to prevent without disclosing that the codes had been broken.

A fascinating account of the early days of espionage in the Cold War.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, but was not required to provide a positive review.

 

Review of A Darker State (Karin Müller #3) by David Young

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Excellent and compelling crime novel with the added bonus of being set in the former East Germany.

This is episode 3 of this fascinating police procedural, however each book works as a standalone.

What sets it apart from others is the unusual location, combined with the ideology, bureaucracy and secrecy that Oberleutnant Karin Müller and her team have to deal with

In this story Müller has been promoted to run a serious crimes unit and quickly has a difficult case on the border with Poland.

This story lives up to its title, showing a darker side of the GDR that challenges Karin’s belief in the GDR and her personal loyalties as well as the looming influence of the Stasi blocking enquiries and influencing the investigation. There’s various different timelines at play here, so you need to keep your wits about you, but I found this a real page turner.

David Young knows East Germany well. There’s some great details that would appear insignificant to many not familiar with the period or the politics. As a result the book portrays a fascinating landscape where David Young’s research captures well the feel (and the smell!) of 1970’s East Germany. It’s well worth reading his notes at the end about how the book developed and his research.

However, it’s worth not losing sight that it’s also a great crime novel with a richly detailed and complex female lead. According to David he’s contracted for another two books and I’m very much looking forward to the further adventures of Karin Müller.

If you like police procedurals, strong female characters, along with an Orwellian landscape then I recommend this.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to write a positive review.

Review of The Wall Between by Jesper Bugge Kold

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A gripping and moving story of the former East Germany.

Andreas lives in Copenhagen and receives a letter informing him that his father who he has never met has been stabbed to death in Berlin, and that he has inherited his flat. Keen to understand more about the father that his mother wouldn’t speak of he travels to Berlin to discover more.

Jesper Bugge Kold combines multiple timelines and characters to produce a brilliant story of the GDR, the Stasi and relationships. This book reminded somewhat of the film “Life of Others” and anyone who liked the film or is interested to the former East Germany should read this.

It’s tautly written but with some almost cinematic descriptions of Berlin. I found it an absolute page turner and read it within a day which is unusual for me.

Highly recommended.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of ” Paris Spring” by James Naughtie

Thoughtful and fulfilling espionage novel

Set in 1968 Paris with the city on the brink of insurgency MI5 agent Will Flemyng is drawn into personal doubts over his brothers loyalty to his country following an encounter on the Metro.

James Naughtie’s novel is full of imagery of the time from smoke filled bars, burning barricades to dead letter drops in remote cemeteries. The characters are richly drawn and if you’ve seen the recent version of Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy you will recognise a certain personality that becomes a spook.

It’s a rich story of tested personal and national loyalties that is both thoughtful and exciting and I’d highly recommend to any fans of classic espionage novels.

Review of ” Operation Whisper: The Capture of Soviet Spies Morris and Lona Cohen” by Barnes Carr

A fascinating and well written true story of Cold War espionage.

Morris and Lona Cohen, an ordinary-seeming couple living in New York City in the 1950s, however they are a key part of a Soviet plan to steal the secrets of the atomic bomb. Betrayed by a defector they disappear from view only to re-appear as Peter and Helen Kroger antiquarian booksellers in London.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Cohens and have long awaited a book that details their story, especially their activities in England in what became known as the Portland Spy Case. Operation Whisper is the first to study in detail their “two lives” as Morris and Lona Cohen in America and Peter and Helen Kroger in England.

Barnes Carr doesn’t disappoint telling an exciting story of espionage sweeping from the East Coast of the US to the leafy confines of London’s suburbia. With details of the actual spycraft used (and misused) this is a must read for any cold war espionage fans.

Literary fans will be fascinated by the connection between the Cohens/Krogers and Frank Doel of 84 Charing Cross Road & The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff fame.

Whilst the writer is obviously not familiar with some of the UK place names he writes in a style that is easy to read and pacey making the book read more like a novel than fact.

Recommended.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” The Cleaner” by Elisabeth Herrmann

I’m always wary of any title with “unputdownable thriller” in it , however this lives up to the billing.

Judith Kepler is an industrial cleaner. Got some serious stains?, she’s your woman. However one job results in her questioning her past and regenerating some uncomfortable memories.

This is a great thriller, with a strong female lead. The story keeps you guessing with the threads of Stasi, W German intelligence and cold war politics intertwining to provide with a very entertaining and stimulating read.

Highly recommended