CROSSING IN BERLIN by Fletcher Knebel


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A verbose, slow-moving love/suspense tale--about 50-ish Mike Simmons, an American elevator-company representative on assignment in Leipzig who meets editor Gisela and is promptly love-launched into a two-page explosion of appalling prose (from ""They lay together, subtly questing and tempting. . ."" to ""And at last, that unsought convulsion of two bodies locked in a conspiracy of immolation""). But unhappily married Gisela immediately reveals her ulterior motive: she needs help in escaping from East to West, for her own sake and also in order to tell the world about a professor whose research on an imminent world disaster (CO2 in the air) has been suppressed. Mike, though wary, is willing--not just for passionate reasons, but because of his intense hatred for the Berlin Wall. (It supposedly symbolizes the religious repression of his childhood: ""The Wall, stark and eyeless, beckoned with unseen hands to his own walled alleys of the night."") So, with help from soldier-son Dave (stationed in West Germany), Mike locates a gap in the border and arranges for Gisela to try a run across: guards appear, however, and a slightly wounded Gisela doesn't make it. Then, after Mike is mysteriously interrogated by East German Secret Police (about an unrelated matter, it turns out), he hires the professional rescue services of Wolfgang Dahlem: the escape-by-river is a success, though there's an accidental killing in transit and an extra surprise passenger--Gisela's teenage daughter. Then, however, the happy reunion is ended when Gisela is kidnapped back to the East, where she's tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison; and Mike must use the media to call world attention to Gisela's plight (ditto the professor). So finally, with one additional bargaining lever (the knowledge that Dahlem is a double agent), both professor and Gisela are freed. Well-intentioned, perhaps--there are sermonettes on human tights and Communism--but plodding, saccharine, and execrably written.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday