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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Espionage, murder, politics - a fine WW2 thriller up there with the best
After reading C J Samson's Dominion it was interesting to read another book set in the same period. Simon Tolkien's new book, Orders from Berlin, takes place in a London suffering from the Blitz, with Hitler's forces massing on the French coast and preparations being made in London for a German invasion.

The book opens at a briefing session in which Adolf...
Published on 25 Nov. 2012 by Thomas Cunliffe

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped
The only reason I am posting a review of Orders from Berlin is that there has been a lot of hype about this book and I am struggling to understand how the book generated it. It didn't help (for me) that the author biography on the back flap says that the author was 'a successful barrister' (why not just 'a barrister'?), and is a 'gifted storyteller who possesses a...
Published 20 months ago by Longchamps


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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Espionage, murder, politics - a fine WW2 thriller up there with the best, 25 Nov. 2012
By 
Thomas Cunliffe "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Hardcover)
After reading C J Samson's Dominion it was interesting to read another book set in the same period. Simon Tolkien's new book, Orders from Berlin, takes place in a London suffering from the Blitz, with Hitler's forces massing on the French coast and preparations being made in London for a German invasion.

The book opens at a briefing session in which Adolf Hitler is quizzing his commanders and generals about when to invade Britain. We see the meeting thought the eyes of Hitler's right hand man and head of the Gestapo, Richard Heydrich, who finds himself disgusted by the time-serving military men who in his eyes lack the necessary resolve to take action when the formidable British Navy still has command of the waters of the English Channel.

After the meeting, Heydrich and Hitler discuss the situation and Hitler reveals that he is more concerned about the threat from the East and he would prefer to make peace with Britain, but only Winston Churchill stands in the way. Churchill has possessed the British people with his hatred of the Nazi's and his talk of blood and sacrifice and has turned the people away from making peace with Hitler. Heydrich reveals that he has a very high quality agent in the British Secret Service who now has access at the highest levels. It should be possible for him to feed information to the British to convince them that they cannot win against Germany and that there only hope is to reach an armistice.

The scene moves to London where we sit in on a top-level meeting between intelligence chiefs. A new man, Charles Seaforth has risen through the ranks quickly by providing very high quality information from his agents in Germany. He has the ear of the chief of intelligence, but his deputy, Thorn, has serious doubts about the new man.

Following the murder of a retired intelligence chief, the book soon develops into a mixture of first class detective fiction and an espionage story. Tolkien has complete command of his material and inter-weaves all the strands of his story into a thrilling and convincing whole - a book I could barely put down.

His descriptions of London during the Blitz are superb and obviously the product of meticulous research. They added much to the atmosphere of the book and add a sense of urgency to the quest to find the murderer and revealing the secret plotting going on behind the scenes. I particularly like Detective Trave who never takes things at face value but niggles away at convenient truths until he finds fault with them. I also liked the character of the retired intelligence chief's daughter Ava who brings a human interest to the novel with her struggle to understand her marriage to the awful Bertram.

Simon Tolkien is J R R Tolkien's grandson and while this book bears no relationship to the Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, Orders from Berlin does actually share the same theme of the battle between good and evil, with both sides are vying for very high stakes. I am sure Simon's grandfather would have been proud to read this fine novel and to realise that his talent has been passed on to future generations.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Went down very well as a gift, 2 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Hardcover)
Presented this to my 92 year-old father and war veteran who is not a big reader of fiction of any description. I am happy to report that he could not put the book down and greatly enjoyed reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped, 16 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Paperback)
The only reason I am posting a review of Orders from Berlin is that there has been a lot of hype about this book and I am struggling to understand how the book generated it. It didn't help (for me) that the author biography on the back flap says that the author was 'a successful barrister' (why not just 'a barrister'?), and is a 'gifted storyteller who possesses a terrific command of language'. Methinks the publishers are boosting the author because the writing doesn't do it on its own.

The story opens with a fascinating premise and convincing character sketches of Hitler and Heydrich. Thereafter I became confused as to whose story this is, not least because the 'point of view' is all over the place: one moment we are hearing the thoughts of Quaid, the next we are in Trave's head, then Bertram's, then Ava's - sometimes within the same paragraph. It's enough to set a reader's head spinning!

Certainly by page 22 it's obvious who the villain is, so it should come down to a story largely character-driven. Regrettably the characters didn't excite or intrigue me, so I struggled.

Questions of accuracy arose in my mind. 'Detective Trave' seemed an Americanism: what happened to Detective Constable? Did they have or use plastic evidence bags in 1940? It doesn't ring true. And I was intrigued that Ava, a beneficiary of a will but not an executor, was required by the solicitors to sign documents; maybe that was put in for a US readership.

I have to confess I did not finish the book because I found it confusing, unconvincing (Churchill didn't sound like Churchill) and lacking in narrative skill. I remain puzzled as to how it generated such critical hype. In my less charitable moments I wonder whether the author's name had anything to do with it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished, 30 Dec. 2012
By 
This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Hardcover)
Simon Tolkien's Orders from Berlin is a compelling historical thriller. I initially dismissed it from the title, but then I read the pitch it hinted at a gripping story. It left me wondering what the real story was all about. And of course I wasn't disappointed when I read it. It is an excellently written story with amazing characters and a superb plot, like the other World War Two story Disciples of Fortune. This is an accomplished piece of writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very mixed bag, 7 May 2013
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My overall impression of this book is that Tolkien isn't quite sure who he's writing for. He seems to be trying to cover a number of genres and succeeds in none of them. The cover (which is what attracted me) hints at a shadowy world of espionage, perhaps reminiscent of Alan Furst's tarnished Europe, or Eric Ambler. Spying is the strongest influence throughout, and Tolkien is clearly following the le Carre mould here - traitors in MI6 who must be hunted down at all costs (he even uses the word 'mole', which was invented by le Carre and not used during WWII!) but doesn't really follow this up with the cynicism or tradecraft of le Carre. Moreover, as anyone aware of the history of espionage in WWII knows, the Germans didn't have any agents in Britain in such a high position - they were all poorly-trained and caught on arrival, often after stupid mistakes. The specifics of the Churchill assassination plot are amateur at best, and full of holes. Overall, the spy angle has been done better by other authors, so espionage aficionados aren't getting much out of the book here; none of the technical details of espionage, or the murky, ambiguous atmosphere of other writers.

There's an element of mystery in the book - the protagonist is a detective - but incredibly little detection. The identity of the spy is given away in their first appearance - it's not explicit, but so obvious that I'm wondering if it would really be a spoiler to give it away. This is then confirmed half-way through, so the mystery is gone and we are left plodding through the motions and trying to guess if Churchill will be saved, which isn't much fun, as we all know the answer. Usually, authors will either hide the identity of the villain completely, throwing out red herrings and ambiguities, until the very last possible moment, or make it obvious to the reader (but not to the other characters) so we can enjoy the cat-and-mouse chase from the bad guy's perspective. Tolkien opts for a sort of middle ground that satisfies no-one.

There's a murder in there, too, but it's secondary to the spy plot and not really dwelt upon. Despite their being a plucky heroine with a failing marriage, there's no romance here either. The detective's already happily married, and his affections are strictly platonic, leaving any hint of a love story dead in the water; not even a hint of attraction.

There are good parts, though. It's well written, with deft character sketches, and though it's nowhere near as redolent of the period as Alan Furst or David Downing, there's a sense of Britain under siege and how people felt at the time. For me, though, the most enjoyable aspect was the historical characters. Tolkien has obviously done his research, and produced compelling portraits of Hitler and Heydrich, the latter being the stand-out character for me. The complexity of the man is well captured - a brave fighter pilot, capable of playing the violin beautifully, yet an utter sociopath responsible for the death of millions (the final scene in the book is chilling, for those who know what Heydrich got up to next). Churchill gets less screen time, but is still excellent.

Whilst reading Orders From Berlin, I kept making the inevitable comparisons to Jack Higgins' The Eagle Has Landed (another book about Germans trying to assassinate Churchill in 1943, and well worth a look). Despite being a better-written work, Orders From Berlin is let down by its poor mystery elements, thin plot, and lack of action or suspense. We go from A to B to C, watching the characters find out stuff we already know, including if Churchill survives or not. Higgins' book relies on its fast pace and tense action scenes, together with the thrill of rooting for the bad guys, to carry its action along. I can't say I'd be tempted to try another one of Simon Tolkien's books, to be honest - Orders From Berlin just isn't exciting enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did not live up to expectations, 14 Oct. 2013
By 
J. B. Hobbs "johnhobbs7" (Milton Keynes) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Paperback)
I selected this book as the plot sounded good, and I was curious to read something by someone of the family pedigree.

There are a number of prior reviews which I have to agree with, the villain is so so obvious, the subsequent explanation seemed a bit superfluous.

However, what I found irritating bearing in mind the September 1940 setting, was the references to, firstly on page 134 a plastic evidence bag, and secondly on page 269, a plastic cup. Neither I think would have been around at the time. Twenty years too early in my experience. A tin mug maybe, I don't know what CSI Scotland Yard would have been equipped with, cardboard boxes possibly.

Other Americanisms like 'blue chip companies' were grating. The term would have been around at the time, but I wonder whether it would have been in common parlance on the London Stock Exchange of that period.

Personally I won't be making a bee line for his other books based on this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars needs proof reading, 2 Nov. 2013
a large amount of americanisms spoilt the story. Filling prescriptions ,apartment,elevator are just three. As other reviewers have pointed out plastic bags weren't used in the 1940s. A good story but sloppy writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, 14 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Hardcover)
The book started off well but as it went along it was just too obvious what was going to happen next. The characters were not "360 enough" and very one-dimensional. At times it was frustrating as the plotline was so obvious but the pace moved so slowly I found myself skim reading entire chunks of it just so I could finish it.

On the positive side it's a good depiction of life in wartime London. The writer has skill which will only improve given time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Orders from Berlin, 1 Mar. 2013
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An uncomplicated and engaging read.
Good atmospheric feel. Especially portraying London in the Blitz. It certainly accorded with the descriptions given by my mother who lived through the experience.
Story plausible.
Ideal holiday fare.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought for husband as gift., 3 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Orders from Berlin (Paperback)
Bought this book as gift for my husband, a none reader, but he enjoyed this book and recommend it to his friends.
If interested in war and secret service, then you will enjoy it. I may even try to get it back to read myself.
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Orders from Berlin
Orders from Berlin by Simon Tolkien (Paperback - 28 Feb. 2013)
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