Joe Wilderness is a World War II orphan, a condition that he thinks excuses him from common morality. Cat burglar, card sharp, and Cockney wide boy, the last thing he wants is to get drafted. But in 1946 he finds himself in the Royal Air Force, facing a stretch in military prison... when along comes Lt Colonel Burne-Jones to tell him MI6 has better use for his talents.
Posted to occupied Berlin, interrogating ex-Nazis, and burgling the odd apartment for MI6, Wilderness finds himself with time on his hands and the devil making work. He falls in with Frank, a US Army captain, with Eddie, a British artilleryman and with Yuri, a major in the NKVD and together they lift the black market scam to a new level. Coffee never tasted so sweet. And he falls for Nell Breakheart, a German girl who has witnessed the worst that Germany could do and is driven by all the scruples that Wilderness lacks.
Fifteen years later, June 1963. Wilderness is free-lance and down on his luck. A gumshoe scraping by on divorce cases. Frank is a big shot on Madison Avenue, cooking up one last Berlin scam ... for which he needs Wilderness once more. Only now they're not smuggling coffee, they're smuggling people. And Nell? Nell is on the staff of West Berlin's mayor Willy Brandt, planning for the state visit of the most powerful man in the world: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
Then We Take Berlin is a gripping, meticulously researched and richly detailed historical thriller a moving story of espionage and war, and people caught up in the most tumultuous events of the twenty-first century.
He'd never flown the Atlantic before. He'd flown plenty of times. His
years in the RAF had seen to that. He'd scrounged flights almost like
hitching car rides. But he'd never done a long haul. It was the stuff of
Sunday colour supplement advertising. "International" was a positive in
the adman's world. It implied you were beyond the pettiness of nations,
that you were post post-war, that you moved in a world peopled by the
likes of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, that you sat in the VIP lounge at
airports, and had a bag emblazoned with the name of the airline. Things
like that were coveted. It was chic to be seen with a cheap plastic holdall
marked BOAC, chic-er still to be seen with the one Wilderness now
had bearing the Pan Am logo.
Frank hadn't been mean with him. Whatever Frank's faultslies, tricks, half-truths, cheapness was not one of them. First class all the way. The hostess handed him a package as soon as he took his ...
Have you ever come late to a party thinking you missed most of the fun, only find out that the best was yet to come? Well, I seem to have come late to John Lawton’s party because this is the first book of his that I’ve read. And it is so good that I will now pick up his previous seven (Frederick Troy) books. What’s more, I look forward to his next book about John Wilfred Holderness, aka Wilderness, aka Joe.
(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
Full Review (1184 words).
To say that by the end of World War II Germany was in tatters is a massive understatement. Infrastructure services were at a standstill, craters gaped where centuries old buildings had once stood, the economy was based upon currency the Reichsmark that was essentially worthless. Worse, the government was forced to ration everything from cigarettes to milk. Everything that sustains life was in drastically short supply. Thanks to human ingenuity, however, where there is a demand there is someone willing to step up and become a supplier. This miasma of need proved to be rich soil that nourished an equally rich black market.
Since the government's system of rationing was based upon earned return for labor performed rather...
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