THE UNFORTUNATE ENGLISHMAN by John Lawton

THE UNFORTUNATE ENGLISHMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cold War complexities and personal tensions drive a British secret agent into a desperate corner.

Berlin, 1963. Acting “on instinct,” British agent Joe Wilderness shoots German Marte Mayerling, who’s slipped up behind him. As she lingers near death, Wilderness’ handler, Alec Burne-Jones, steps in to protect him, but it’s a debt of gratitude with restrictive strings. As Wilderness returns to London, the story flashes back to 1945 and British spy Bernard Alleyn, who rises steadily in the postwar government but is ultimately undone by the Cold War revelation that he and his wife, Kate, are actually Russian. Back in 1960, the perspective shifts to London, where walruslike upper-echelon intelligence officer Geoffrey Masefield takes Burne-Jones’ new protégé, Wilderness, under his wing. Dispatched to Russia, Masefield witnesses the erosion of British intelligence and an exacerbation of the Cold War. Against this backdrop, Wilderness advances through the intelligence ranks, closely monitored by Burne-Jones, and is offered management of the Berlin office. Masefield works in Moscow while Wilderness immerses himself in the Berlin scene, where he drifts into an affair with co-worker Nina, an indiscretion that haunts him after his return to London. The tale continues to move both backward and forward, documenting recent historical events as well as Wilderness’ ethical and personal challenges, before depicting the incidents that led to the shooting of Marte Mayerling.

Rueful Wilderness is the perfect Cold War protagonist. With his second adventure (Then We Take Berlin, 2013), Lawton bids fair to build a compelling rival to his seven-volume Troy series.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2399-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2016




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