Paris, November 1945: John Russell is walking home along the banks of the Seine on a cold and misty evening when Soviet agent Yevgeny Shchepkin falls into step alongside him. Shchepkin tells Russell that the American intelligence will soon be asking him to undertake some low-grade espionage on their behalf - assessing the strains between different sections of the German Communist Party - and that Shchepkin's own bosses in Moscow want him to accept the task and pass his findings on to them. He adds that refusal will put Russell's livelihood and life at risk, but that once he has accepted it, he'll find himself even further entangled in the Soviet net. It's a lose-lose situation.
Shchepkin admits that his own survival now depends on his ability to utilize Russell. The only way out for the two of them is to make a deal with the Americans. If they can come up with something the Americans want or need badly enough, then perhaps Russell will be forgiven for handing German atomic secrets over to Moscow, and Shchepkin might be offered the sort of sanctuary that also safeguards the lives of his wife and daughter in Moscow. Every decision Russell makes now is a dangerous one.
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Great view of Berlin after the end of WW2
As this is Part 5 of a series, a few more gentle reminders of who some of the characters were and their 'backstory' could have been woven in to make the current story more understandable and relevant.
I never quite grasped who the lead character was, what motivated him. I enjoyed the series, but the lead character doesn't seem as clearly drawn as those by other authors exploring some of the same territory, such as Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon or Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther.
I adore Simon Vance's narration and much prefer these fine British actors telling WW2 or spy stories in general. They own them, in my opinion. I see Simon Vance also has a blog speaking about a variety of topics, including history. His blog contains an ad for a contest to compare James Bond movies to the audio narration of the same book. For those of us old enough to have had some of our earliest stories delivered to us without the benefit of pictures, the power of the spoken word has re-emerged as delightful way to enjoy a book, beyond the obvious conveniences of an audiobook, especially when the narration is as good as this one.
Yes, it was. It can be grim at times, but for a story taking place 6 months after the end of WW2, exploring the effects of war on a range of characters, that is to be expected.
This book illustrates the social and political realities in the months following the war through the stories of individuals and does a great job accomplishing that goal. I'm somewhat of a WW2 buff and feel after this book, I now have a much greater grasp of Europe, especially Berlin, in the months after the war ended. One sees the different powers jockeying for their place in post-war Berlin and making tough choices that are easy to question all these years later. It is viewing the end of WW2 in the way we have looked at subsequent wars, such as the Vietnam War, without any great heroes....more post-modern than 'the greatest generation'.
Disappointing and Boring