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3.7 out of 5 stars18
3.7 out of 5 stars
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When revisiting past crimes, be careful what you wish for.
In 1988, the British Army Intelligence Unit in West Berlin, in an unauthorized operation, recruits a young East Berliner, Hans Becker. The go-between is a 22-year old I Corps junior stenographer, Corporal Tracy Barnes, who becomes Becker's lover. Becker is sent by his controller to East Germany's Baltic coast to glean information from radar base signals. There, Hans is captured and brutally murdered by Stasi Counter Espionage Captain Dieter Krause. Barnes suspects Krause's guilt, but can't prove it. And Hans remains the first and only man that Tracy has ever slept with.
Now, it's a decade later. The Berlin Wall is rubble, Germany is re-united, and Dieter Krause is the new darling of the German intelligence service, the BfV, because of the information he can provide on an old friend, Russian Army Colonel Pyotr Rykov, who's the influential personal assistant to the Russian Defense Minister. The Germans are showing Krause off, first to the Brits, then the Yanks. However, during a visit to the I Corps base in Ashford, Kent, Dieter is recognized by Barnes, who physically attacks him. Clapped into the base guardhouse, Tracy is interrogated by a veteran SIS man sent down from London, Albert Perkins of German Desk, but he gets nothing. Released from detention, Barnes goes to Germany to unearth the evidence to bring Dieter down. She's accompanied by Josh Mantle, a solicitor's clerk persuaded to the task by Tracy's mother. Josh, at 54, was once of I Corps, then of the Royal Military Police. Stubbornly his own man and awkwardly dedicated to principles, Mantle was discarded by the Army at the end of the Cold War. Now, he's tired and on the ash heap of imminent old age. Against his better judgement, but always for the underdog, Tracy's dangerous mission demands his participation.
THE WAITING TIME at first begins as a relatively simple tale of long-delayed justice. Well, ok, vengeance. But "simplistic" is never an apt description of Gerald Seymour's thrillers. Tracy's implacable, single-minded quest becomes almost a sideshow as Perkins, following Barnes and Mantle to Germany, has his own agenda to put the upstart BfV back into "its place". And another scarred veteran of the Cold War, the iron-haired and intimidating Olive Harris of the SIS Russian Desk, convinces the MI6 wallahs to activate her own scheme, i.e. to topple Pyotr Rykov (which would render Krause's humint pretty much valueless).
I'm a huge fan of Seymour's novels. But, in THE WAITING TIME, I reluctantly suggest that the plot is too complicated. He should've left out the Harris gambit and focused solely on Perkins, Mantle, Barnes, and Krause. When Olive arrives in Moscow to administer the coup de grace to Rykov, the local SIS station head asks, "Why are we mounting a hostile operation against Pyotr Rykov? ... Your game is the immediate destruction of a fine man." That just about says it all, and perhaps the only usefulness of the subplot is to illustrate that "our side" (and the gentler sex) can be just as ruthless as "their side" when it comes to destroying a man.
Seymour's forte is showing that victory is often Pyrrhic. The most tragic victor of this story is undoubtedly Mantle, self-crucified on the Cross of Principle. You might think that role would be Tracy's, but, as the reader learns in a surprise ending, she's not what she appears to be through 99% of the novel.
Overall, a jolly good show. But it could have been tighter.
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on 1 February 2002
It has become fatal for me to pick up a Gerald Seymour novel. Once I have read the first couple of pages, I can't put the thing down! Work and social life go out the window. This is one I missed and recently picked up second-hand. It's script is tight and research is meticulous. The characters are believable and go through the same range of emotions as you and I. I highly recommend this and all of Seymour's novels.
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on 25 July 2010
I like spy thrillers. Gerald Seymore writes spy thrillers. "The Waiting Time" ticks the boxes for a holiday read with the comfortable feeling that as reader you will be entertained but not surprised in a disappointing way.

The basic tale is satisfyingly coherent and familiar (betrayed lover seeks vengence against various agents and agencies with aging devoted sidekick).

Perhaps as holiday reading it is a bit too complex. The cynical and scary Perkins as one of the pot-stirring spies was too one-dimensionally confrontational). But the characters are well-drawn. I rather liked the book, even for its conscious or unconscious borrowings from Le Carre. After all, that's what spies and fiction writers do, isn't it?
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on 3 October 2000
This is a very good thriller with some great ingredients.
The writing is reasonable without being sensational but I was annoyed by the author's habit of starting many sections with "he" or "she" or "they" and then not identifying the subject(s) for several paragraphs. I also felt some characters were irrelevant - or I somehow missed their contributions to the plot (!).
Overall, however, Seymour very effectively blends a Cold War incident with life after the fall of the Wall and, in the end, delivers quality suspense and a few neat twists.
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on 25 June 2012
Well I reached page 181 of this book - my first Gerald Seymour and I am not likely to try another one. I found the plot very slow and flitted about too much. I feel a third of the way through the book I should have been able to like at least some of the characters but in general they seemed a bit vague and not that pleasant including the heroine. All seemed hard faced and compassionless. I have not regretted giving it up.
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on 1 February 2002
It has become fatal for me to pick up a Gerald Seymour novel. Once I have read the first couple of pages, I can't put the thing down! Work and social life go out the window. This is one I missed and recently picked up second-hand. It's script is tight and research is meticulous. The characters are believable and go through the same range of emotions as you and I. I highly recommend this and all of Seymour's novels.
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on 27 October 2013
I think that Mr Seymour has gone over the top with his lack of clarity, his use of pronouns instead of nouns and proper nowns made it hard to follow as the book progressed. Who is he talking about cropped up again and aga
in and I found myself having to backtrack on too many occasions. It also has an indeterminate end making one wonder if it had been worth reading in the first place. Not one of his best.
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on 25 April 1999
From the scene setting, right to the conclusion, I was hooked - couldn't put the book down.
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on 28 October 2000
I am, however, glad that I persevered until the end, as there is a quite unexpected twist to it in the last few pages. Overall though, I was not taken with this story - I have certainly read better works of Seymour. This tale did not grip me - I did not really care what happened to any of the protagonists (of any side).
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on 25 July 2014
Not as good as his others. The storyline stretches credibility to snapping point and the antics of some of the characters beggar belief which is not consistent with the usual fare from Gerald Seymour. His prose and descriptions are as good as ever but the characters just don't come to life as they normally do.
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