Today I am delighted to share a review for David Boyle’s WWII spy thriller, The Berlin Affair. Short and sweet, this is the perfect novel to get lost in for an evening and will leave you dreaming of Hotel Adlon, double agents, shadows in the night.
Title: The Berlin Affair
Author: David Boyle
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Publication Date: July 6, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, WWII Fiction, Spy Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, British SOE, WWII Intelligence, Romance, Espionage
My Rating: 3.5/ 5
American Xanthe Schneider finds herself catapulted into the world of British espionage, and is sent into the heart of Nazi Germany: Berlin.
Her task? To find out whether Ralph Lancing-Price – a former government minister she had known briefly in London – is a patriot or traitor.
And what of the code he talked about so abstrusely? Using her guise as an American correspondent, Xanthe sets out to find him. But not all is what it seems. Xanthe soon becomes drawn into a web of intrigue involving a project entitled “Enigma” – and she also unexpectedly falls in love.
As the weeks go by, and Germany begins to mobilise its armies, Xanthe has to question who she can trust – and how she can survive?
The Berlin Affair is a page-turning thriller, full of historical insight and dramatic reversals of fortune.
A must read for fans of Robert Harris, David Downing and Alan Furst.
Because I like to get the uglies out of the way, I’m going to jump out of the gate in saying that my only complaint with The Berlin Affair was that it was too short! There were so many amazing moments and key elements – like Xanthe’s exit from Germany – that could have been given a little more time, which would have taken this novel up to the next level. But in saying that, with the way my life has shaken out over the past few weeks, I really enjoyed picking up a book that I could complete in a single sitting and put down feeling like the story was complete.
And just because this novel is short, does not mean that it is any way lacking in realism and research. Jam packed with historical facts and figures, it ticked all of my requisite boxes for authenticity and believability. I enjoyed the elements of the SOE, of the quest to break the Enigma code, and the inclusion of real persons throughout the narrative. Add in a touch of fashion, the realities of rationing, and the continually growing sense of oppression and fear and you’ve got a winning combination.
Xanthe’s affair was a little tough to understand in the beginning, but as time went on and the realities of war set in I had two realizations: 1) you can’t always help who you fall for and 2) with the pool of eligible men dwindling in the trenches, age gaps and odd matches were more the norm than otherwise. And once I wrapped my head around it, I could see it. A young, idealistic woman falls for a passionate and charismatic older man. I do believe that this is one of the foundational plots of romance, regardless of where the story is set! Sure, Ralph is a little off base, but his quirkiness and off-hand comments is a large part of what heightens the suspense and drives the plot along.
It was fun reading those sections where Xanthe was arranging her dead drops and meet ups, especially since I found my hands a little shaky in those moments. I can only imagine the fear the operatives of the SOE would have felt and the anxiety that they must have endured on a daily basis. I genuinely appreciated (and was equally revolted by) the realities that many women faced at the hands of soldiers and officers, with their unwanted advances and obvious reprisals if they didn’t cooperate.
Would I recommend this book? Sure thing! Although it does read closer to a novella than a full blown novel. It’s punchy, fast paced, and undeniably engaging. Given the subtitle I am hopeful that there will be a few more books in the Enigma Thriller series, and these subsequent instalments will a little longer and more fully flushed out.
Many thanks to David Boyle, Endeavour Press, and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.