Leaving Berlin

by Joseph Kanon

I’m not good with spy stories, and when I sat down to write this account – less than a month after finishing the book – I struggled to remember what it was about.  Fortunately, there are reviews and summaries aplenty on the internet.  And I think it was an Amazon recommendation that caused me to download this eBook.

So, what can I say about it?  It is set in East Berlin in the immediate post-war period, and one is immediately struck, not just by the bleakness of the place, but also by the relative lack of any legal control where the handling and killing of spies is concerned.  But perhaps the world of spies is always like this.  I do recall, when I visited the GDR museum in Leipzig a few years ago, being shocked by the number of executions of very young people, mainly men in their late teens and early twenties, in the five or so years after the end of the war.  Maybe life was still cheap, and people’s memories (on both sides) allowed them to commit atrocities with a clear conscience.

The story just doesn’t come back to mind.  I find this is usually the case with spy stories, presumably because things are not how you think they are, and the truth only comes to light in the last few pages, when you find out that the ‘good guy’ is really working for the other side.

It was a compelling enough read, but I won’t recommend it – unless you like spy stories.