Category Archives: Coldwar

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.

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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

Review of ” Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Thriller (East Berlin Series Book 1)” by Max Hertzberg

A fascinating alternative history of the two Germanys as well as a gripping thriller.

Max Hertzberg has come up with a fascinating alternative history of 1989 and after for Germany. It’s 1993, the Wall is open, however East Germany hasn’t been subsumed into West Germany. It has decided to stay independent and run the country via a grassroots participatory democracy, resulting in decentralising most decision making to neighbourhood committees in which everyone participates. However, all is not well in the new GDR as dark forces are trying to destabilise it.

The story revolves around Martin Grobe, a former dissident and now part of the Republicschutz, a post 9th Nov 1989 counter-espionage service which has responsibility for monitoring attempts to undermine the new East Germany. He is investigating the murder of prominent politician at a mine in West Silesia, a region looking to join West Germany.

The author certainly knows Berlin and East Germany well and captures the period in great detail even down to way the 1980s era S-Bahn train doors operate. However, what brings the story alive are the characters struggling to keep alive their dream of freedom, justice and equality in the face of corruption, West German pressure for unification and the dark forces that enforced the old regime.

Whilst some may see this book as some sort of left wing fairy tale I found the book stimulating and vastly different from standard spy thriller fare with its parallel exploration of political self-determination and de-centralisation of power.

Further books in the series are planned and I for one will be keen to follow how Grobe and the “new” East Germany fares further into the 1990s.

This book is currently free (as of Jan 2016) on Smashreads, link here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…

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

Review of Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie

Intriguing, chilling, and colourful insight into the most famous Cold War espionage case.

Guy Burgess has often been thought as the least damaging of the Cambridge spies, however Andrew Lownie’s book argues strongly against this view.

Burgess himself is a complex person, charming and repulsive in equal measure, he was the consummate networker. Despite being drunk and openly gay at work when such activity was illegal the fact he wasn’t fired or found out earlier is astounding.

Lownie details Burgess’s formative years which goes some way to explain his decision to spy for the Soviets. The book is accessible, enjoyable and informative, however I did find some aspects difficult to follow, particularly keeping track of the seemingly endless list of Burgess’s lovers.

I recommend watching this excerpt of a rare TV interview with him when he was in Moscow which is mentioned in the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e36KM…

I find the Cambridge 5 case fascinating in that the “old boy network” of MI6 just couldn’t comprehend that that one of their own (i.e of their class & upbringing) would spy for another country, which led them being able to continue for so long.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in espionage, the cold war and political motivation.

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

Review of Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Another great novel from Helen Dunmore.

Exposure is set at the heart of the Cold War in November, 1960. Simon and Lily Carrington live in North London. Simon works at the Admiralty, keeps his head down and has a relatively ordinary life. However, this is turned upside down when he is accused of espionage.

As with any Dunmore novel this is more about the people than the action and personal secrets are revealed as Lily and Simon’s life descends into a nightmare.

There’s some great characterisation here especially around Lily who emigrated to Britain as a Jewish refugee just before the start of World War 2. In addition the sinister and menacing pair of Giles Holloway and Julian Clowdes add a gripping layer of psychological drama to the whole proceedings.

The Giles Holloway character appears loosely based on Guy Burgess, one of the Cambridge 5 and Julian Clowdes has echoes of Kim Philby too.

An excellent gripping novel with great attention to period detail too.

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