Then We Take Berlin

Written by John Lawton
Review by Mike Ashworth

This is really two stories, both centring on Berlin. The first begins in 1941 when John Holderness, commonly known as Wilderness, finds himself living with his grandfather in Stepney, East London, learning how to break into people’s houses. At the end of the war he is called up and enlisted into the RAF. To his surprise he finds himself transferred to an Intelligence unit (actually MI6) and is posted to Berlin. Although engaged in interrogating ex-Nazis, he is also used for his special burgling skills. At the same time he becomes involved in the Black Market in partnership with Frank (US army), Yuri (NKVD), and Eddie (British army). Together they take smuggling to new heights.

The second story begins in 1963 when Frank contacts Wilderness and persuades him to take up one last venture – only this time it is smuggling a person from the Russian Zone.

This is a gripping and meticulously researched book. A historical thriller, it is also a realistic portrayal story of people and life in postwar Berlin. Although a little slow to start, once the action moves to Berlin the story takes off and moves to a fast paced climax. Does he succeed? Read the book – I don’t want to spoil the ending. Recommended.