Monday, 13 January 2020

Nightfall Berlin - Jack Grimwood

Jack Grimwood is one of several up-and-coming British spy writers. I have reviewed several of Charles Cumming's novels on this blog and rate him second only to the master, John le Carre. Jack Grimwood isn't quite that good but he is not far off.

Grimwood is happy to acknowledge his debt to the master, and does so in the book. His continuing character, Tom Fox, is a brilliant character - a former priest turned undercover assassin for British Intelligence. The setting is the 1980s, with the Iron Curtain starting to rust. Mrs Thatcher is halfway through her reign of terror and Fox's father-in-law is one of her ministers. It is five years or so since Sir Anthony Blunt was unmasked as a traitor. More recently, Peter Wright's Spycatcher claimed there were more Soviet agents in Parliament and the Security Services.

 Nightfall Berlin sends Fox into East Berlin to bring home the ageing defector Sir Cecil Blackburn. Everything is arranged but when Fox calls to collect Blackburn for the final time, he finds the old boy with a crowbar through his chest and his minder, who just happens to be the nephew of the KGB Rezident in Berlin, strangled beside him. Everyone, including Blackburn's girlfriend and his daughter, believes Fox killed them. Worse, back in England, someone abducts Fox's young son and demands Blackburn's memoirs as ransom. Fox doesn't have the memoirs. The papers were burnt in the old man's fireplace.

It's a cracking read. Grimwood is another who has realised the importance of thrills in thrillers. And the final shootout in the Berlin zoo is a whiteknuckle ride. This second in the series is highly recommended. I, meantime, will set about finding the first, Moskova.

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