John Holderness, known to the women in his life as 'Wilderness', comes of age during World War II in Stepney, breaking into houses with his grandfather. After the war, Wilderness is recruited as MI5's resident 'cat burglar' and finds himself in Berlin, involved with schemes in the booming black market that put both him and his relationships in danger.
In 1963 it is a most unusual and lucrative request that persuades Wilderness to return - to smuggle someone under the Berlin Wall and out of East Germany. But this final scheme may prove to be one challenge too far....
©2014 John Lawton (P)2014 Oakhill Publishing
"A superbly well-built Cold War cocktail - bracing, deliriously delicious, but carrying the slightly bitter aftertaste of dreams gone bad." (Booklist)
"John Lawton finds himself in the same boat as the late Patrick O'Brian - a sublimely elegant historical novelist as addictive as crack but overlooked by too many readers for too long." (Daily Telegraph on A Lily of the Field)
I've long been a fan of John Lawton and I think this is one of his best books. Wilderness is a really likeable, roguish anti-hero, whose personality is brought out well through the story. I also like the attention which the author pays to developing the other characters, particularly Nell. As with other John Lawton books you learn a lot about the time, place and events within which the story is placed and I found the detail absolutely fascinating. He really does evoke the chaos, the grimness, horror, and the ludicrous, sometimes funny, events that characterised Germany, particularly Berlin, at the end of the war. He also draws out the different reactions of the survivors - those who will survive at any cost (who will do anything at any cost) and those who cannot continue to carry the burden of what they have experienced. I can't agree with others who criticise the ending. It stands up well alongside other endings which leave the reader to use their imagination - it made me think of the classic ending to the Italian Job and Michael Cain saying "Just wait while I think of something" (apologies if I have got the quote wrong) as the coach teeters on the edge of the precipice.
I thought books needed a beginning, a middle and an end. the first two parts were great, various characters from other Inspector Troy books popping up, evocative period description, and then it was as if the author ran out of time and just dashed of any old ending. Such a shame.
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