BERLIN BREAKOUT by Julian Romanes

BERLIN BREAKOUT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Supergrim thriller set in choking rat's-nest Berlin, 1945-48, featuring Nazi storm troopers on the lam under more clouds of grey than any Russian play could guarantee. S.S. member Bernd Stocker is ordered to bum all S.S. personnel records before the Russians and Americans invade Berlin, but he's interrupted midfire by the Americans. Even so, a second copy of the records still exists. . . In 1948 he winds up in a Russian-sector jail as a black marketeer and is thrown into a urinous cell with a Polish strong-arm man and crook named Kranz. With the help of Stocker's sharpshooter girlfriend Elise, the two men escape but find themselves locked into an extremely vicious three-power bind when Stocker offers to sell the second copy of the lost records which identify the underground S.S. group named Lohengrin. Wanting the records are British Intelligence, Russian Intelligence, and Stocker's murderous, Lohengrin-staffed black-market ring. Meanwhile, Kranz secretly offers the records to British Intelligence, which Russian Intelligence hears about within the hour, then sets its own team after Kranz. Earlier, a Lohengrin member named Erhard had been arrested by the Russians along with Stocker. Now Lohengrin's leader, Karoli, orders Stocker and Kranz to penetrate the Russian prison hospital and immediately release or murder Erhard before he sings about Lohengrin and sparks a Russian hunt for the Secret S.S. group. Nearly everyone in the novel, by the way, has overlapping allegiances and is spying for someone else. The prison break-in, and then breakout with Erhard, is quite exciting, but when they finally get the man back to Karoli, Karoli shoots him: This isn't Erhard! And he orders them back into the prison to bring out the right man. This time Bernd and Kranz simply turn themselves in at the prison gate as returning prisoners to get themselves back in. . . Until their final breakout into the West, Bernd and Kranz land together in one fine mess after another, like a Brechtian Laurel and Hardy--or Newman and Redford. For a thriller, these messes lend an amusing curl to the plot and lighten the overcast.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's