Tag Archives: fiction

Review: Agent in Berlin – Wolf Pack Spies #1 (Alex Gerlis)

Another fantastic book from Alex Gerlis, whose Richard Prince novels are as fine fiction as I’ve ever read.

We’re back to Berlin and more spying, except this time, it’s a bona fide ring of spies, cast from diverse characters living in Berlin.

Barnaby Allen is recruited to the spy game and tasked with setting up a network of spies in Berlin after the Nazis have taken hold but before the invasion of Poland in 1939. He also encourages those recruits to be on the lookout for others who may be willing to engage in a very dangerous game as well.

His very first recruit is a gay German citizen and businessman, Werner Lustenberger, who is affable, charming, and about as Bondian a spy as it gets in Gerlis’ world. He befriends, and then beds a member of the SS, among other things.

American Jack Miller joins the ring of spies, having come to Berlin to cover the Olympics, and who stays to write travel and sports pieces, which allows him to go practically anywhere with a ready-made reason to be there. He gets friendly with the Reich’s sports minister, who gives him additional protection when he wanders out of bounds a couple of times.

There’s Sophie, sick of her high ranking SS husband, and who finds the husband’s personal diaries and realizes the horrific things he’s doing. Though afraid, she’s able and willing to do the things the spywork requires: taking pictures of various places, getting people out of the country, and so on.

And there’s the saddest spy ever: Tadashi Kimura, a diplomat at the Japanese embassy in Berlin, who, in his words, commits treason for the sake of love.

Spycraft abounds: secret meeting places, coded phone calls, and, as the years roll by, an ever-tightening, claustrophobic feeling that the next encounter could be game over for the spies. For some of them, alas, it is.

It’s a fascinating read that at points may feel slow but isn’t: the slower areas are just a pause, so the various pieces can be put into place before setting the board in motion once more.

Highly recommended, and five stars out of five.

Thanks to Canelo and NetGalley for the reading copy.

Review: The Opium Prince (Jasmine Aimaq)

I will no doubt be in the minority on this book.

I wanted to enjoy it: set in Afghanistan in the 1970s, with the opium becoming one of the defining symbols of the country, Russia attempting to take the country, the US creating and arming the Taliban as an answer, and within all this turmoil, David Sajedi, half American and half Afghani, working for an American agency attempting to destroy the opium trade by taking out poppy fields, hits and kills a young girl while driving.

What is not to like? This: the book could not determine what it wanted to be. This will no doubt draw comments about how many books don’t fit into a single category, and it’s x of me to try to apply labels. Yes, some books defy categorization. In order to do this, though, they must be consistent, and they must be well written throughout. Characters are introduced and that appear to be playing a part in this book in some important way are never heard from or about) again. Thee are some pacing issues as well. The shifts in writing range from soaring language that is almost poetic to basic noun-verb-period. There are also some weird references to other books as we slog to the end that make no sense at all.

The premise is good. the story should be good, placed against that background. I just didn’t really like the execution. Sorry, not for me.

Two out of five stars.

Thanks to Soho Press/Soho Crime and NetGalley for the reading copy.