‘What I’d like is an interest-free loan of eight hundred quid to buy a new car’, I said.
Dawlish gently packed tobacco into the bowl of his pipe with a match. He put the pipe into his mouth before looking up at me.
‘Yes,’ he finally said.
‘Yes I want it or yes I can have it?’ I said.
‘Yes, everything they say about you is true,’ said Dawlish. ‘Go away and let me work.’ (Chapter 13)
Funeral In Berlin, the third novel of the Ipcress File tetralogy, strikes me as being more relaxed and funnier than its predecessors.
‘Do you ever imagine what it would be like to be on the moon?’ Sam said.
‘Nearly all the time,’ I said. (Ch 15)
The humour works better and the disconnected, angular style is, initially at least, less impenetrable than in The Ipcress File. Several times I even thought I knew what was going on.
‘I never joke, Chico. The truth is quite adequately hilarious.’ (Ch 13)
Just slightly pre-Swinging Sixties, when people still talked about ‘beatniks’ and hang out in Soho coffee bars and the most raucous sounds seem to come from loud jazz. A world where the nameless narrator is keen to demonstrate his street smarts, his cool, his savvy.
Charlotte Street runs north from Oxford Street and there are few who will blame it. By mid-morning they are writing out the menus, straining yesterday’s fat, dusting the plastic flowers and the waiters are putting their moustaches on with eyebrow pencils. (Ch 13)
The colour and detail of ‘pads’ which are about to feature in colour supplements about Jean Shrimpton or Burt Bacharach.
I walked into the lounge. It was about thirty foot of ankle-high carpeting from silk wall to silk wall. The cocktail cabinet was in the corner. I opened it and was socked in the head by pink neon. (Ch 14)
And yet, as I’ve noted before, the cool of Deighton (b. 1929) is combined with what later generations, or even the Beatles generation (b.1940) would think of as still very high-brow intellectual pursuits: when he wines and dines the sexy American girl he’s picked up – or who’s picked him up – they agree to go to a concert at the South Bank of Charles Ives, Berg and Schoenberg. In fact the Schoenberg piece – Variations for Wind band – appears three times, in different places, like a leitmotiv.
Security Service savvy
Deighton does a very good job indeed of conveying how we imagine the Security Services to actually be ie a pettifogging bureaucratic cross between the Army and the Civil Service, snowed under with paperwork, fussing about pay and pensions and expenses, thrilling to little perks like luxury lunches at the club – except that the petty jealousies and rivalries which plague all bureaucracies in this context overlap with very real plots and conspiracies to frame each other (as in Ipcress) or to hamstring each other’s projects to double-cross or treble-cross the Russian or German or Israeli secret services.
The security savviness is reinforced by more of the elaborate apparatus surrounding the text that was deployed in Ipcress and Horse Under Water:
- each short chapter has a date stamp (eg Berlin, Monday, October 7th)
- plenty of footnotes explicating obscure Security Service or military practice, 18 in the first 60 pages alone
- half a dozen appendices at the end of the text giving longer explanations of key aspects
- as Ipcress File had horoscopes at the head of each chapter, so each of Funeral‘s 52 chapters has an epigraph which is a rule or tip about chess. I play chess pretty well so was mildly interested in some of them, but they added nothing to my enjoyment and, as far as I could see, nothing to the meaning of the story so, like the horoscopes, I learned to ignore them
The same unnamed, first-person narrator from The Ipcress File, same boss – Dawlish – as in Horse, same secretary and staff in the same dingy Charlotte Street office. He’s in and out of Cold War Berlin handling the defection of a Russian scientist, Semitsa, reputedly an expert on enzymes, the deal being arranged by their Berlin fixer and chancer, Johnnie Vulkan.
Slowly it appears this is a red herring and the plot is really about the legacy of the war, about the fate of a German murderer who was in a concentration camp during the Nazi era and who has survived into post-War Berlin, although wanted by both the Communists and the Israelis.
The progress of the plot and of the Narrator’s efforts are closely monitored by the Russian General Stok, who pops up throughout the book, initially hinting that he himself wants to defect and that Semitsa’s passage will be a dry run for him; later, coming clean that he just wants to keep an eye on everything. Stok is a broadly comic character, permanently making toasts with vodka and caviare, engaging in witty banter with the wryly understated Narrator. Though there are a couple of sinister moments when he is pulled over by police in East Germany, then in Czechoslovakia, and thinks he might be about to be arrested – only for Stok to emerge from the shadows with a big grin and a bottle of vodka!
In Ipcress the narrator says plots aren’t as easy to define or tie up as writers of spy fiction would have you expect. He has some 600 files open at any one time, each of which is highly complex and may not even be a definite ‘case’, may just be an accidental overlapping of circumstances, while real ‘cases’ ie interconnected purposeful events, are going undetected.
All three novels enact this sense of uncertainty. It’s difficult to know what’s going on because in the ‘real world’ which the spy inhabits, everyone is lying, everyone has multiple identities and concealed agendas, you’re not even certain what your ‘own’ side wants, let alone the other official agencies, let alone the numerous freelancers you continually meet and are continually making dubious offers.
Thus for most of the novel it’s difficult to know whether this is:
- a true case of a Russian scientist defecting
- something to do with the Grehlen Group, a branch of German Intelligence – creepy Teutonic types we meet a couple of times – do they have a cunning plan to hijack Semitsa, or something more concealed?
- a dummy run for General Stok’s plan to defect. Turns out he doesn’t want to. Is he willing to help Semitsa’s defection? In the event – No.
The main love interest is the gorgeous Samantha Steele, who seduces the Narrator while posing as an American agent. In the final quarter she is revealed as an Israeli agent and for a while it seems the plot might be about the Israelis tracking down a concentration camp guard who was responsible for murders in the death camps, and is still alive, therefore deserves punishing…
Only towards the end does it become clearer, that Johnnie Vulkan has taken British money to facilitate the smuggling of the Russian scientist Semitsa, across the Berlin Wall hidden in a coffin – hence the title – but double crosses the Narrator and the British by selling Semitsa on to Sam and Israeli Intelligence. But when Vulkan and the Narrator open the coffin as delivered to them in a West Berlin garage, they find no scientist, just a load of propaganda pamphlets. It seems this is a joke the ubiquitous Colonel Stock has played on them; not only did he never intend to defect himself, he never intended to supply any Russian scientist – all along he simply wanted to poke and pry into British Intelligence methodology.
But, in any case, Vulkan doesn’t give a damn about Semitsa or the Israelis – all along Vulkan had insisted the papers for the ‘corpse’/coffin be made out in the name of one Brouma. For a while it seemed to be merely a coincidence that, upon deeper investigation, this Brouma had been a real person who had survived for a while in Treblinka concentration camp before being murdered on the long walk West escaping the advancing Russians. Or maybe had lived on – maybe his death/murder were really a story and Brouma was in fact Vulkan or one or other of his dodgy underworld contacts.
The Narrator probes this murky history on a vividly described trip to Prague where he meets two ageing Jews who survived the camps and knew the real Brouma. It is typical of the novel (and of ‘reality’?) that they give sharply differing accounts of his character and fate…
But it’s simpler than that. Brouma did exist and did die but his family had left him a fortune in Swiss bank accounts. Therefore the entire scientist-smuggling operation was, for Vulkan, purely a pretext to get his hands on a set of British government-authenticated identity papers in the name of Brouma. He would then use these to reclaim Brouma’s fortune. It is a straightforward criminal scam.
However, after the Narrator and Vulkan open the coffin and discover it contains no Russian scientist, they argue and fight. Through sheer (bad) luck the Narrator knocks Vulkan backwards onto a rack of drills and Vulkan dies a horrible agonising death from a punctured lung. The Narrator promptly packs him into the coffin in time for the Israeli agents to arrive and collect it at gunpoint. This team is led by his brief one-time lover Sam Steele, also known as Hannah Stahl, who explains to the Narrator that they need Semitsa because his innocent-sounding work on enzymes is in fact into nerve gases, and this information will be vital when the next Arab-Israeli War breaks out.
Boy, is she in for a surprise when she opens the coffin and finds no Russian scientist, just the embarrassing corpse of a Berlin playboy and chancer.
And then there’s the departmental politics back in dear old London, where the narrator can never be sure whether his boss is backing him up or framing him, or whether other departments like the War Office or Foreign Office or Home Office are helping whatever it is he’s trying to do, or are playing completely different games in which he is only a pawn.
As with the previous novels, the plot felt like it was over with the failure of the Semitsa defection, but there is one last act, where the homosexual official in the Home Office, Hallam, who had made out the documents in Brouma’s name which were destined for Vulkan, turns nasty. He takes the Narrator to a fireworks night display in a bombed-out vacant lot near Gloucester Road. Here, amid the bangs and crashes, and in an impenetrably thick London fog, Hallam tries to shoot the Narrator, confirming the Narrator’s hunch that he was in on Vulkan’s scam and is now after the Broum documents (worth quarter of a million pounds).
Only in the final wind-up conversation with his boss does it emerge that they both knew that Hallam was on the verge of being sacked for his ‘homosexual tendencies’. This is what drove him to throw in his lot with Vulkan and then to make a rather panicky attack on the Narrator – the latter avoids his shots while throwing fireworks at him until Hallam’s long flamboyant scarf catches fire then ignites the bottle of booze in his pocket – whooosh!
What gives the novel its peculiarly Deightonesque quality, is that the narrator – who holds all the cards ie has his suspicions and is calculating the angles on all the scenarios mentioned above – does not share this knowledge with the reader. In this novel, as in Ipcress, it is only at the very, very end that any kind of order or pattern emerges from the events described, and then only in laconic conversations with his secretary or boss – and even this ‘final roundup’ still leaves holes in the narrative and motivation.
Multiple points of view
In a technical development over the previous two novels, some of the chapters take the perspective of characters other than the main narrator. These chapters are told by an omniscient third-person narrator who allows us into these other characters’ thoughts. This is a small mercy and makes Funeral easier to enjoy, if not exactly to follow, than Ipcress, which is so dominated by the concealing, allusive style of the narrator. Deighton relaxes (slightly) and draws extended pen portraits of other key characters and these are enjoyable in their own right. (It is one of them – Hallam the homosexual – who gives us a brief description of the anonymous narrator: ‘An upstart from Burnley – a supercilious anti-public school technician who thought he was an administrator.’ (Ch 2))
In this slightly more forgiving book the similes also seem less incongruous, more of a piece with the humour. Similes, like metaphors, are after all, a kind of joke, a revelation of incongruous similarities.
‘Ha ha ha,’ said Stok, then he exhaled another great billow of cigar smoke like a 4.6.2 pulling out of King’s Cross. (Ch 6)
Damp leaves shone underfoot like a million newly struck pennies. (Ch 15)
Now the powdery skin [of his face], sun-lamped to a pale nicotine colour, was supported only by his cheek-bones, like a tent when the guy ropes are slackened. (Ch 16)
Though some of the comparisons, as in Ipcress, strain a little harder than others.
From underfoot the sweet smell of damp grass rose like perfume. Birds were still singing in the trees that stood across the major surgery of sunset like massed artery forceps. (15)
Inside the semi-precious light of the stained glass softly dusted the smooth, worn pews, and a complex of brass candlesticks glinted like a medieval oil refinery. (15)
These last two betoken the fundamentally anti-Romantic, unsentimental stance of his no-nonsense Narrator: he dumps his girlfriend/secretary of the first book, Jean, to have an affair with the leggy American agent, Sam Steele; then arranges for her flat to be burgled to establish who she really is, confirming his hunch that she is an agent. He mistakenly beats up an elderly messenger in the street in Berlin and has no regrets (Ch 19). He kills two more major – and rather sympathetic – characters (Johnnie Vulkan and Hallam) with no qualms. And this hard attitude extends all the way down to small descriptions and casual phrases.
In Horse Guards Avenue and right along the Thames Embankment, hollow tourist buses were parked and double-parked. The red-cloaked Horse Guards sat motionless clutching their sabres and thinking of metal polish and sex. In Trafalgar Square pigeons were enmeshed in the poisonous diesel gauze. (Ch 17)
I walked out along the moonlit sea front. The phosphorescent breakers crumbled into shimmering lacework and the moon was an overturned can of white paint that had spilled its contents across the sea. (Ch 24)
This tough but humorous tone is the distinctive feature of the novel’s worldview and of its prose. Tough but humorous also characterises Raymond Chandler’s innovative style in the detective genre, and it is probably the humour – along with the impenetrable plots – which are Deighton’s big contribution to the spy novel. A tone of underplayed humour which is perfectly captured by Michael Caine’s performance in the movie adaptations of these books.
‘I wish you would try to understand,’ said Stok. ‘I am really sincere about giving you my allegiance.’
‘Go on,’ I said. ‘I bet you say that to all the great powers.’ (Ch 5)
The anxiety of influence
By 1964 there was quite a boom of spy TV shows and movies:
- The Avengers TV series started in January 1961
- The Modesty Blaise cartoon strip started appearing in the Evening Standard in May 1963
- The Man From UNCLE TV series started in September 1964
- Bond movies – Dr No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964)
which is reflected in the text. When the Narrator is arrested in East Berlin and taken to a police station, he reflects: ‘I knew there must be a way out. None of those young fellows on late-night TV would find it any sort of dilemma.’ (p.34). The Narrator gets a bit riled when ordered to give Hallam some money to establish his identity:
Who the hell is he going to think I am if I don’t give him four half-crowns – James Bond?’ (p.57)
Then his employee, upper class twit Chico, comes in.
‘I’ve got a file from A.E.A.S.D.’
‘What?’ I said.
‘Atomic Energy Authority, Security Department,’ Chico said.
‘That’s better,’ I said. ‘You’ve been watching those spy films on TV again.’ (p.68)
Spy fictions went from a minority genre to becoming big business in books, films and TV in the early 1960s, so that by the late 1960s TV schedules were full of special agents and the cinemas bulged with Bond lookalikes. Why? Is it as simple as that the genre is desperately romantic? Handsome capable men defeat baddies, bed willing dollybirds, get to drive fast cars and play with guns. Fulfilling every adolescent boy’s fantasies?
Hallam the Home Office official is gay – the narrator teasing him for his campness from the beginning – but then his chief significance becomes that his homosexuality has made him a ‘security risk’ and led to his early retirement – and it is this, the official attitude, which drives him into criminal behaviour. In the final pages, the hero and his boss discuss the stupidity of anti-gay laws which make it easier to turn closet gays into security risks. It was only in 1967 that homosexual acts in private between two men over the age of 21 were decriminalised.
Quite a lot of driving around. Only when you look up the cars mentioned in the text do you realise how antiquated they are, how distant that world is, how long ago it all was.
- Moskvich (Ch 1)
- Black Cadillac Eldorado (Ch 8)
- 1960 two door Taunus (Ch 6)
- White Sunbeam Alpine (Ch 18)
- White VW military police bus (Ch 19)
- Volga (Ch 20)
- White Citroen DS 19 (Ch 24)
- Mercedes 220 SE (Ch 24)
Michael Caine was signed up to reprise the role of Harry Palmer he first played in the film version of The Ipcress File. The movie was released in December 1966 and was directed by Guy Hamilton, who had directed Goldfinger in 1964 and went on to direct three other Bond films in the early 1970s.
‘Girls always make passes at spies who wear glasses.’
- Funeral In Berlin the book on Amazon
- Funeral In Berlin the movie on Amazon
- Funeral In Berlin article on the Deighton Dossier
Len Deighton’s novels
1962 The IPCRESS File Through the thickets of bureaucracy and confusing misinformation which surround him, an unnamed British intelligence agent discovers that his boss, Dalby, is in cahoots with a racketeer who kidnaps and brainwashes British scientists.
1963 Horse Under Water Perplexing plot which is initially about diving into a wrecked U-boat off the Portuguese coast for Nazi counterfeit money, then changes into the exposure of an illegal heroin manufacturing operation, then touches on a top secret technology which can change ice to water instantly (ie useful for firing missiles from submarines under Arctic ice) and finally turns out to be about a list – the Weiss List – of powerful British people who offered to help run a Nazi government when the Germans invaded, and who are now being blackmailed. After numerous adventures, the Unnamed Narrator retrieves the list and consigns it to the Intelligence archive.
1964 Funeral in Berlin The Unnamed Narrator is in charge of smuggling a Russian scientist through the Berlin Wall, all managed by a Berlin middle-man Johnnie Vulkan who turns out to be a crook only interested in getting fake identity papers to claim the fortune of a long-dead concentration camp victim. The Russians double-cross the British by not smuggling the scientist; Vulkan double-crosses the British by selling the (non-existent) scientist on to Israeli Intelligence; the Narrator double-crosses the Israelis by giving them the corpse of Vulkan (who he has killed) instead of the scientist; and is himself almost double-crossed by a Home Office official who tries to assassinate him in the closing scenes, in order to retrieve the valuable documents. But our Teflon hero survives and laughs it all off with his boss.
1966 Billion-Dollar Brain The Unnamed Narrator is recruited into a potty organisation funded by an American billionaire, General Midwinter, and dedicated to overthrowing the Soviet Union. A character from Funeral In Berlin, Harvey Newbegin, inducts him into the organisation and shows him the Brain, the vast computer which is running everything, before absconding with loot and information, and then meeting a sticky end in Leningrad.
1967 An Expensive Place to Die A new departure, abandoning all the characters and much of the style of the first four novels for a more straightforward account of a secret agent in Paris who gets involved with a Monsieur Datt and his clinic-cum-brothel. After many diversions, including an induced LSD trip, he is ordered to hand over US nuclear secrets to a Chinese scientist, with a view to emphasising to the Chinese just how destructive a nuclear war would be and therefore discouraging them from even contemplating one.
1968 Only When I Larf Another departure, this is a comedy following the adventures of three con artists, Silas, Bob and Liz and their shifting, larky relationships as they manage (or fail) to pull off large-scale stings in New York, London and the Middle East.
1970 Bomber A drastic change of direction for Deighton, dropping spies and comedy to focus on 24 hours in the lives of British and German airmen, soldiers and civilians involved in a massive bombing raid on the Ruhr valley. 550 pages, enormous cast, documentary prose, terrifying death and destruction – a really devastating indictment of the horrors of war.
1971 Declarations of War Thirteen short stories, all about wars, mainly the first and second world wars, with a few detours to Vietnam, the American Civil war and Hannibal crossing the Alps. Three or four genuinely powerful ones.
1972 Close-Up Odd departure into Jackie Collins territory describing the trials and tribulations of fictional movie star Marshall Stone as he betrays his wife and early lovers to ‘make it’ in tinseltown, and the plight he currently finds himself in: embroiled in a loss-making production and under pressure from the scheming studio head to sign a lucrative but career-threatening TV deal.
1974 Spy Story The Unnamed Narrator of the Ipcress spy novels returns, in much tamer prose, to describe how, after escaping from the ‘Service’ to a steady job in a MoD war games unit, he is dragged back into ‘active service’ via a conspiracy of rogue right-wingers to help a Soviet Admiral defect. Our man nearly gets shot by the right-wingers and killed by Russians in the Arctic, before realising the whole thing was an elaborate scam by his old boss, Dawlish, and his new boss, the American marine General Schlegel, to scupper German reunification talks.
1975 Yesterday’s Spy Another first-person spy story wherein a different agent – though also working for the American Colonel Schlegel, introduced in Spy Story – is persuaded to spy on Steve Champion, the man who ran a successful spy ring in Nazi-occupied France, who recruited him to the agency and who saved his life back during the war. Via old contacts the narrator realises Champion is active again, but working for Arabs who are planning some kind of attack on Israel and which the narrator must foil.
1976 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy (aka Catch a Falling Spy) The narrator and his CIA partner manage the defection of a Soviet scientist, only for a string of murder attempts and investigations to reveal that a senior US official they know is in fact a KGB agent, leading to a messy shootout at Washington airport, and then to an unlikely showdown in the Algerian desert.
1977 Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain Abandoning fiction altogether, Deighton published this comprehensive, in-depth and compelling history, lavishly illustrated with photos and technical diagrams of the famous planes involved.
1978 SS-GB A storming return to fiction with a gripping alternative history thriller in which the Germans succeeded in invading and conquering England in 1941. We follow a senior detective at Scotland Yard, Douglas Archer, living in defeated dingy London, coping with his new Nazi superiors, and solving a murder mystery which unravels to reveal not one but several enormous conspiracies.
1979 Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk Another factual history of WWII: Deighton moves quickly over Hitler’s rise to power and the diplomatic bullying of the 1930s, to arrive at the core of the book: an analysis of the precise meaning of ‘Blitzkrieg’, complete with detailed notes on all the weapons, tanks, artillery and hardware involved, as well as the evolution of German strategic thinking; and then its application in the crucial battle for the river Meuse which determined the May 1940 Battle for France.
1980 Battle of Britain
1981 XPD SIS agent Boyd Stuart is one of about 20 characters caught up in the quest for the ‘Hitler Minutes’, records of a top secret meeting between Hitler and Churchill in May 1940 in which the latter was (shockingly) on the verge of capitulating, and which were ‘liberated’ by US soldiers, along with a load of Nazi gold, at the very end of the war. Convoluted, intermittently fascinating and sometimes moving, but not very gripping.
1982 Goodbye, Mickey Mouse Six months in the life of the 220th Fighter Group, an American Air Force group flying Mustangs in support of heavy bombers, based in East Anglia, from winter 1943 through spring 1944, as we get to know 20 or so officers and men, as well as the two women at the centre of the two ill-fated love affairs which dominate the story.
1983 Berlin Game First of the Bernard Samson spy novels in which this forty-something British Intelligence agent uses his detailed knowledge of Berlin and its spy networks to ascertain who is the high-level mole within his Department. With devastating consequences.
1984 Mexico Set Second of the first Bernard Samson trilogy (there are three trilogies ie 9 Samson books), in which our hero manages the defection of KGB agent Erich Stinnes from Mexico City, despite KGB attempts to frame him for the murder of one of his own operatives and a German businessman. All that is designed to make Bernard defect East and were probably masterminded by his traitor wife, Fiona.
1985 London Match Third of the first Bernard Samson spy trilogy in which a series of clues – not least information from the defector Erich Stinnes who was the central figure of the previous novel – suggest to Samson that there is another KGB mole in the Department – and all the evidence points towards smooth-talking American, Bret Rensselaer.
1987 Winter An epic (ie very long and dense) fictionalised account of German history from 1900 to 1945, focusing on the two Winter brothers, Peter and Paul, along with a large supporting cast of wives, friends, colleagues and enemies, following their fortunes through the Great War, the Weimar years, the rise of Hitler and on into the ruinous Second World War. It provides vital background information about nearly all of the characters who appear in the Bernard Samson novels, so is really part of that series.
1988 Spy Hook First of the second trilogy of Bernard Samson spy novels in which Bernie slowly uncovers what he thinks is a secret slush fund of millions run by his defector wife with Bret Rensaeller (thought to be dead, but who turns up recuperating in a California ranch). The plot involves reacquaintance with familiar characters like Werner Volkmann, Frau Lisl (and her sister), old Frank Harrington, tricky Dicky Cruyer, Bernie’s 23-year-old girlfriend Gloria Kent, and so on.
1989 Spy Line Through a typically tangled web of incidents and conversations Samson’s suspicions are confirmed: his wife is a double agent, she has been working for us all along, she only pretended to defect to the East. After numerous encounters with various old friends of his father and retired agents, Samson finds himself swept up in the brutal, bloody plan to secure Fiona’s escape from the East.
1990 Spy Sinker In the third of the second trilogy of Samson novels, Deighton switches from a first-person narrative by Samson himself, to an objective third-person narrator and systematically retells the entire sequence of events portrayed in the previous five Samson novels from an external point of view, shedding new and sometimes devastating light on almost everything we’ve read. The final impression is of a harrowing world where everyone is deceiving everyone else, on multiple levels.
1991 MAMista A complete departure from the Cold War and even from Europe. Australian doctor and ex-Vietnam War veteran Ralph Lucas finds himself caught up with Marxist guerrillas fighting the ruling government in the (fictional) South American country of Spanish Guiana and, after various violent escapades, inveigled into joining the long, gruelling and futile trek through the nightmareish jungle which dominates the second half of the novel.
1992 City of Gold A complex web of storylines set in wartime Cairo, as the city is threatened by Rommel’s advancing Afrika Korps forces in 1942. We meet crooks, gangsters, spies, émigrés, soldiers, detectives, nurses, deserters and heroes as they get caught up in gun smuggling, black marketeering and much more, in trying to track down the elusive ‘Rommel spy’ and, oh yes, fighting the Germans.
1993 Violent Ward Very entertaining, boisterous first-person narrative by Los Angeles shyster lawyer Mickey Murphy who gets bought out by his biggest client, menacing billionaire Zach Petrovitch, only to find himself caught up in Big Pete’s complex criminal activities and turbulent personal life. The novel comes to a climax against the violent backdrop of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in April 1992.
1993 Blood, Tears and Folly: An Objective Look at World War II
1994 Faith Return to Bernard Samson, the 40-something SIS agent, and the world of his friends and family, familiar to us from the previous six Samson novels. Most of the characters (and readers) are still reeling from the bloody shootout when his wife returned from her undercover mission to East Germany at the climax of the previous novel. This book re-acquaints us with all the well-loved characters from the previous stories, in a plot ostensibly about smuggling a KGB colonel out from the East, but is really about who knows the truth – and who is trying to cover up – the real cause of the Fiona-escape debacle.
1995 Hope 40-something SIS agent Bernard Samson continues trying to get to the bottom of the death of his sister-in-law, Tessa Kosinski and is soon on the trail of her husband, George, who has gone missing back in his native Poland.
1996 Charity Ninth and final Bernard Samson novel in which it takes Bernard 300 pages to piece together the mystery which we readers learned all about in the sixth novel of the series, ie that the plot to murder Fiona’s sister, Tessa, was concocted by Silas Gaunt. Silas commissioned Jim Prettyman to be the middle-man and instructed him to murder the actual assassin, Thurkettle. Now that is is openly acknowledged by the Department’s senior staff, the most striking thing about the whole event – its sheer amateurish cack-handedness – is dismissed by one and all as being due to Gaunt’s (conveniently sudden) mental illness. As for family affairs: It is Bret who ends up marrying Bernard’s one-time lover, the glamorous Gloria; Bernard is finally promised the job of running the Berlin Office, which everyone has always said he should have: and the novel ends with a promise of reconciliation with his beautiful, high-flying and loving wife, Fiona.