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Then We Take Berlin [Kindle Edition]

John Lawton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

John Holderness, known to the women in his life as 'Wilderness', comes of age during World War II in Stepney, East London, breaking in to houses with his grandfather.

After the war, Wilderness is recruited as MI5's resident 'cat burglar' and finds himself in Berlin, involved with schemes in the booming black market that put both him and his relationships in danger.

In 1963 it is a most unusual and lucrative request that persuades Wilderness to return - to smuggle someone under the Berlin Wall and out of East Germany. But this final scheme may prove to be one challenge too far...

Then We Take Berlin is a gripping, meticulously researched and richly detailed historical thriller - a moving story of espionage and war, and people caught up in the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century.

Product Description


--A Publishers Weekly "Big Book" of Fall 2013 "John Lawton's stylish spy thriller, "Then We Take Berlin," is a splendid introduction to John Wilfrid (Wilderness) Holderness, born a Cockney guttersnipe, trained in various criminal enterprises by his grandfather and transformed into a British intelligence operative during World War II. . . .[An] enthralling story of Wilderness's adventures in espionage and Lawton's harrowing descriptions of life in the battered nations of Europe in 1945, when the war was over but never seemed to end."--"New York Times Book Review" "Lawton's gift for atmosphere, memorable characters and intelligent plotting has been compared to John le Carre, but his dry humor also invokes the late Ross Thomas. . . . Never mind the comparisons--Lawton can stand up on his own, and Then We Take Berlin is a gem."--"The Seattle Times" "A dangerous assignment in East Berlin is fraught with complex memories from postwar Europe. . . . A wonderfully complex and nuanced thriller."--"Kirkus Reviews" "Lawton captures both the immediate postwar and midcentury landscapes perfectly, stirring elements of Graham Greene, John le Carre, and the great Ross Thomas' too-little-known McCorkle and Padillo novels into a superbly well-built Cold War cocktail--bracing, deliriously delicious, but carrying the slightly bitter aftertaste of dreams gone bad."--"Booklist" (starred review) "This intelligent first in a new series from Lawton ("A Lily of the Field" and six other Inspector Troy thrillers) opens on the eve of President Kennedy's 1963 Berlin visit, but the real meat lies in the compelling backstory of John Wilford Holderness, an East London Cockney who joins the RAF in 1946. . . . A wonderfully written and generally wise book that will thrill readers with an interest in WWII and the early Cold War era."--"Publishers Weekly" (starred review) "Anyone familiar with Lawton's Inspector Troy series of mysteries already knows that he is a master of time and place. Every rationed meal, every stolen car, every bit of cat burglar craft is perfect. His Berlin is as gritty as brick dust, populated by wraiths on the make in baggy clothes from years of starvation rations and vitamin deficiencies. Everyone does what they have to in order to survive and morality is a very situational concept indeed. As the years advance, some of the characters become wiser with their experience, some merely older but Berlin survives, rebuilding but unchanging. . . . Absolute dynamite in a trench coat with cigarettes, coffee and nylons stuffed in the pockets. Don't miss this one!"--I Love A Mystery "Lawton builds a wonderfully convincing picture...writing with remarkable authority. . . as usual with Lawton's books, it's rather more than the sum of its parts."--"Spectator" "While Lawton's previous novels were distinguished by their precise and elegant prose, "Then We Take Berlin" offers, courtesy of its Cockney protagonist, a cruder but equally effective vernacular style underpinned by mordant black humour."--"Irish Times" "Lawton's up there with Philip Kerr and Alan Furst. Yes, he's that good."--"The Sun" "Absolute dynamite in a trench coat . . . Don't miss this one!"--I Love A Mystery Newsletter "A thriller that is sure to have any fan of John Le Carre's Smiley novels gripped."--Crime Fiction Lover "["Then We Take Berlin"] is a stand-alone novel outside [Lawton's] wonderful 'Troy' series, set in Berlin in 1963 . . . it is extremely good."--Deadly Pleasures "Anyone familiar with Lawton's Inspector Troy series of mysteries already knows that he is a master of time and place. Every rationed meal, every stolen car, every bit of cat burglar craft is perfect. His Berlin is as gritty as brick dust, populated by wraiths on the make in baggy clothes from years of starvation rations and vitamin deficiencies. . . . Absolute dynamite in a trench coat with cigarettes, coffee and nylons stuffed in the pockets. Don't miss this one!"--W. J. H. Reed, I Love A Mystery "A very captivating read."--Fantasy Book Critic

About the Author

John Lawton is the author of ten novels, including "Second Violin," "Flesh Wounds," and "Bluffing Mr. Churchill." His thriller "Black Out" won a WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, "A Little White Death" was named a "New York Times" notable book, and his latest novel "A Lily of the Field" was named one of the best thrillers of the year by Marilyn Stasio of "The New York Times." He lives in Derbyshire, England.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1516 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802121969
  • Publisher: Grove Press (5 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FF93NO6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,656 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
British writer John Lawton - the author of the Inspector Troy series - has produced a new novel that might drive the reader totally crazy. I am going to compare this latest - a sort of "stand-alone" - with Lawton's previous work, not with spy novels in general.

John Lawton is an excellent writer who wraps meticulously researched history around his fictional characters. He writes about wartime England and the post-war years. "Then We Take Berlin" is not a continuation of the Troy series, though there are several characters from those books who "pop up" in "Berlin". The main character is a young man - John Holderness - who has mastered criminal activity like robbery and selling stolen goods on the London black-market during the war years. Too young to fight, he's drafted after the war and winds up the "glass house" of jail for actions unsuitable for an army private. He's saved from prison by a posh officer who recognises his innate intelligence and sets off polishing young Holderness and turning him into an intelligence operative in Germany. Holderness - who has acquired the nickname "Wilderness" from his many lady friends - is a value to the British secret service in post-war Germany, while conducting smuggling operations in his off-time. Author Lawton sets "Wilderness" off on a great many adventures - some legal, some not - while hatching the most audacious plan for June, 1963.

Okay, here's the problem with "Then We Take Berlin" - the ending. I've read the ending several times and I don't understand it. Did Lawton's publisher take out a couple of - really crucial - pages? Is this novel the first of a series? Am I a complete dimwit? (Probably).
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A really wonderful start but slowly unravels 14 Dec. 2013
By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The first third of Then We Take Berlin is a wonderful read. John Lawton provides an engaging introduction to John Holderness early years growing up in East London during the war, that of Nell's in the last days of the war in Germany, and Holderness' recruitment into military intelligence. The characterisation is keenly observed and there's a strong sense of place and context. In the middle third of the book the narrative starts to become more bitty with many short sections charting Holderness' time in Hamburg and then Berlin as he becomes involved in the black market and starts a relationship with Nell. The final third moves the story through the 1950s up to 1963 and Kennedy's visit to Berlin, and Holderness' attempt to extract someone from East Berlin. Here, the narrative is a little sketchy, Nell largely disappears from view, and it's really not clear what Holderness' motivations are. There is an odd and confusing timeline shift, with some scenes from 1955 inserted between the transition from 1948 to 1952 for no apparent reason, but the most disappointing aspect is the ending. The story just stops. It feels as if at least twenty odd pages are missing. The novel as a whole reads as if Lawton wasn't sure where to take it, or quite how to deal with the twenty year span of time. This was a shame as the start was excellent and Holderness and Nell are attractive creations. It'll be interesting to see how Lawton develops the series.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius 28 Feb. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a keen historian who has spent many years living and working in Berlin I have to say that I was pulled in by Lawton's brilliant characters, good historical understanding and perceptive description of the mindset and human foibles that prevailed in the post-war period (on reflection I don't suppose things have changed that much really). His writing is effortless and his cynicism and wonderful (in my humble opinion) sense of humour makes this a great read. I have read hundreds of books about this period, this is up there with the very best. Despite the chronology switching around, the narrative still flows. Don't get hung up on this, just let the story grab you and enjoy the ride.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 9 Dec. 2013
By alan
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Another outstanding book by this author, He must be head and shoulders above the competition in this genre, It grips you from the first page to the last, Just when you think you have worked it out it takes you in another direction, I'm not going to write endless paragraphs about the characters or the plot as some people seem to do as it's not necessary Just get the book and find out for yourselves, you will not be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, convincing, interesting... 28 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an effortlessly expert piece of writing, only to be expected from the author of the 'Inspector Troy' series. For anyone with an interest in the final days of World War II and the Cold War years that follow, this is a riveting read, offering a cast of raffish characters and storylines that cover cat burglary, black market shenanigans, people smuggling and the murderous trade of the international spy. Beautifully written, yet it cracks along at a fine pace. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What no funeral? 15 Dec. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A working class, former black marketeer effecting the escape of someone dubious from East Berlin in the early 1960's, now where have I heard that before? The resemblance was so acute that I found John morphing in to a young Michael Caine in my mind's eye as I was reading just as Yuri became Colonel Stok. Not that it was a problem, I enjoyed the book as I have enjoyed many other of John Lawton's offerings. I would however, recommend that anyone who did enjoy this might also read the spy series by Len Deighton or at least watch the Harry Palmer films. The ending was a little Deus ex Machina but I suspect that all will be revealed in the sequel and I look forward to it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent read.
To be honest, I bought this because I was bored, I couldn't find anything else to read and I had enjoyed the Inspector Troy series. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Mr. Michael A. Steel
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely interesting book which gave an interesting insight into the ...
Hugely interesting book which gave an interesting insight into the chaos and cynicism of post-second world war Berlin. Spoleto to a most interesting and complex character. Read more
Published 2 months ago by NaturalPenRose
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love and agree wholeheartedly with John Lawton's character's critique English societies distorted self view.
Published 4 months ago by MJN
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Keeps up the high standard of his other books. Plausible and well-researched
Published 5 months ago by D. E. Young
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
Thoroughly enjoyable book, with a wealth of memorable characters and full of detail.
Would be five stars, but for the sudden, abrupt conclusion, which left me feeling a little... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pugwash
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good plot and able to leap time all the characters were very believable and the rackets were great.
Published 6 months ago by TJ
5.0 out of 5 stars A1
Published 6 months ago by Mr G Norris
5.0 out of 5 stars Basically, a good engaging read.
Great book. A bit muddled - there characters' stories seem to start abruptly at points and you wonder where it is going but I have to hand it to Lawton, this is a very good read. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Smokey Joe
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a downloaded book!!!
Its a downloaded book!!!!!!
Published 7 months ago by David Goodman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fascinating story of post war Berlin
Published 8 months ago by TelW
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