Our Friends in Berlin

Written by Anthony Quinn
Review by Douglas Kemp

London, March 1941, at the height of the Blitz, when the threat from Nazi Germany was severe, and invasion and defeat faced Britain. Jack Hoste, a British national, is a German agent looking to recruit Nazi sympathisers in the south-east of England. He encourages these disloyalists/traitors to provide reports on local conditions and military intelligence if possible. Hoste is looking for one particularly elusive target, a Marita Pardoe who he has been told by his masters to locate and recruit. He establishes contact through a former friend of hers – Amy Strallen, who is a partner in a thriving marriage bureau in Brook Street. They become friendly, and Amy becomes intrigued by Hoste and then suspects that he is involved in nefarious activities.

All well and good, until the story takes a sudden lurch, and the reader is forced to look at matters from an entirely new perspective. It is a clever trick and works well. We then also go back six years to the blossoming of the friendship between Amy and Marita Florian (as she was before her marriage) to understand a little more that underlies their rather unlikely friendship. Back to the War and matters hot up as the Allies hone their closely guarded secret plans for the Normandy invasions of France in June 1944.

This is a well-plotted and engaging novel, with characters that capture and inflame the interest of the reader. As with most thrillers, there is suspension of disbelief required on some occasions, but this does not detract from an excellent narrative and a fine story. One matter of nagging and repetitive historical inaccuracy in the tale, throughout the novel, is that Anthony Quinn refers to the Ministry of Defence, but the MoD was not named as such until 1964 – before then it was the War Office.