It was with great excitement that
I learned that Sam Eastland was taking Inspector Pekkala into Berlin in the end
days of WW2. Eastland had been one of those authors I was always interested in
giving a try but just hadn't got around to. Berlin Red seemed
like a great place to start.
And it the beginning of the novel
that lost me. The long, long, long beginning. The novel is called BERLIN Redand the blurb promised a tense thriller. The Nazis have
perfected an advanced guidance system for the V-2 rockets, the Soviets send
Pekkala to Berlin to get it. Already Eastland has my attention as this set up
is rife with tremendous possibilities. Even throwing in what has become the
tired cliché of someone (in this case, Pekkala) returning to Berlin to save
someone he left behind (in this case, the woman he loves) who, of course, is the
key spy the Nazis are hunting for leaking key information to the Allies. This
tired subplot aside, the premise still held my interest.
So let's get Pekkala to Berlin
and the espionage, cat and mouse games can begin. Right? Wrong! I read the
novel in ebook format and the little counter tracking my progress revealed what
my reading experience had shown me. Our intrepid hero arrives in Berlin after
I'd read 71% of the novel! With a title like BERLIN Red, should
the reader get through almost three-quarters of the book before the protagonist
is even in Berlin?
Not the end of the world - if
that 71% is compelling fiction. It isn't. This is a very
talky novel delving
into the characters via flashbacks and endless conversations. Almost nothing
happens and the style did not keep this reader turning pages. We've got
Pekkala's lady love passing info to the Nazis. Hitler listening to the
broadcasts where her info is transmitted. A switch in the lead man on the Nazi
hunt. The spy's boss and his life with his mistress. And Stalin hell-bent on
ruining Pekkala's life. All of these threads grind the narrative to a halt. If
this was, say, the first 50 pages to set the stage, it would still be pushing
things. I remind you the novel is called BERLIN
Red and there is no
"Red" until three-quarters of the book has crawled passed your sleepy
eyes. And this goes on not for 50 pages but for 275 pages! Where's the autobahn
when you need it? I was beginning to wonder if Pekkala would ever reach Berlin.
Eastland creates mildly
interesting characters. His period details are distributed well and he has done
his research. But Berlin Red is a dull as dishwater read. There are
moments of action but they are very few and far between. This is a talky novel
and not a very good one.
You can put this one at the bottom end of the Berlin Noir canon.