Midnight in Berlin

Written by James MacManus
Review by Edward James

What can I say about this book except that it ticks all the right boxes?  It is a spy thriller with:

– a tightly crafted plot
– a tale of high stakes
– a dramatic climax
– believable characters
– a sure sense of time and place.

The only drawback is that the idea that the Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Berlin in 1939, named Colonel Macrae in this novel, was commissioned by MI6 to assassinate Hitler is totally implausible.  Yet according to the author’s note, just such a plan was actually put forward and considered at a high level by the British government.

Not surprisingly, the plan was turned down.  In the novel, the plan is approved but miscarries at the last moment.  That is not the whole story, of course.  There is a beautiful Jewish girl fleeing the Gestapo and a group of German generals planning a putsch, plus all the internal intrigues at the Embassy.

The internal relationships within the Embassy are perhaps the best and most convincing part of the book. We have a small group of foreigners whose job is to be foreigners, to represent the home country and to keep a distance from the host nation.  In this tiny, insulated group, personal and professional tensions run high while ‘out there’ the nightmare unfolds.

MacManus is a distinguished editor and journalist as well as a novelist, and he brings all his talents to bear in this book.