Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review of Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn (2018, Vintage)

London, 1941. The city is being blitzed nightly, Germany is still in the ascendancy, and some in Britain would like to see them win, or sue for peace. Working for British intelligence, Jack Hoste poses as a Gestapo agent, pulling German sympathizers into his web. Marita Pardoe, wife of an interned fascist politician, and considered the most dangerous agent in Britain remains hidden, however. He turns to Amy Strallen, a friend of Marita’s from before the war to try and make contact. Strallen is co-owner of a Mayfair marriage bureau. Her business is thriving, but she’s yet to find love herself. Hoste intrigues her, but a relationship founded on deception is always going to be a brittle affair, especially when the stakes are so high. Quinn’s tale is as much a character study of Jack and Amy and their tentative and strained relationship as it is about clandestine activity in Britain. Marita acts as the lynch-pin of their dalliance, but remains somewhat of an enigma throughout. Building up the backstory of both, Quinn charts their brief, doomed intersections as Jack pursues Marita at all costs. The telling is understated, painting espionage as fairly mundane with occasional flash points, and there are a couple of twists along the way. The result is an engaging, thoughtful, low-key tale of deception, trust, loyalty and love. 

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