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Our Friends in Berlin

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‘The best spy novel set in wartime London. A masterpiece’ Edward Wilson, author of A Very British Ending London, 1941. The city is in blackout, besieged by nightly air raids from Germany. Two strangers are about to meet. Between them they may alter the course of the war. While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citize ‘The best spy novel set in wartime London. A masterpiece’ Edward Wilson, author of A Very British Ending London, 1941. The city is in blackout, besieged by nightly air raids from Germany. Two strangers are about to meet. Between them they may alter the course of the war. While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citizens is gathering secret information to aid Hitler’s war machine. Jack Hoste has become entangled in this treachery, but he also has a particular mission: to locate the most dangerous Nazi agent in the country. Hoste soon receives a promising lead. Amy Strallen, who works in a Mayfair marriage bureau, was once close to this elusive figure. Her life is a world away from the machinations of Nazi sympathisers, yet when Hoste pays a visit to Amy’s office, everything changes in a heartbeat. Breathtakingly tense and trip-wired with surprises, Our Friends in Berlin is inspired by true events. It is a story about deception and loyalty – and about people in love who watch each other as closely as spies.


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‘The best spy novel set in wartime London. A masterpiece’ Edward Wilson, author of A Very British Ending London, 1941. The city is in blackout, besieged by nightly air raids from Germany. Two strangers are about to meet. Between them they may alter the course of the war. While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citize ‘The best spy novel set in wartime London. A masterpiece’ Edward Wilson, author of A Very British Ending London, 1941. The city is in blackout, besieged by nightly air raids from Germany. Two strangers are about to meet. Between them they may alter the course of the war. While the Blitz has united the nation, there is an enemy hiding in plain sight. A group of British citizens is gathering secret information to aid Hitler’s war machine. Jack Hoste has become entangled in this treachery, but he also has a particular mission: to locate the most dangerous Nazi agent in the country. Hoste soon receives a promising lead. Amy Strallen, who works in a Mayfair marriage bureau, was once close to this elusive figure. Her life is a world away from the machinations of Nazi sympathisers, yet when Hoste pays a visit to Amy’s office, everything changes in a heartbeat. Breathtakingly tense and trip-wired with surprises, Our Friends in Berlin is inspired by true events. It is a story about deception and loyalty – and about people in love who watch each other as closely as spies.

30 review for Our Friends in Berlin

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    I loved Anthony Quinn's 'Curtain Call’ so when I saw ‘Our Friends in Berlin’ up for grabs I took no persuading! It's 1941 and London is suffering from the German bombardment that became known as The Blitz. Amid the bombed out buildings and the blackout, there lurks even more danger in the form of Nazi sympathisers, collecting intel that will aid Hitler's war machine. Jack Hoste, (former bank clerk) is tasked with the job of discovering the most dangerous of these agents, and naturally this puts hi I loved Anthony Quinn's 'Curtain Call’ so when I saw ‘Our Friends in Berlin’ up for grabs I took no persuading! It's 1941 and London is suffering from the German bombardment that became known as The Blitz. Amid the bombed out buildings and the blackout, there lurks even more danger in the form of Nazi sympathisers, collecting intel that will aid Hitler's war machine. Jack Hoste, (former bank clerk) is tasked with the job of discovering the most dangerous of these agents, and naturally this puts him in extreme danger. Dragged unwittingly into the espionage and intrigue is Amy Strallen, co founder of the Mayfair 'marriage bureau'. Unbeknown to Amy, one of her close friends is thought to be the elusive Nazi sympathiser that Jack Hoste is tasked with finding. 'Our Friends in Berlin’ was inspired by true events, and captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of wartime Britain, together with it's quota of secrets, lies and intrigue necessary to maintain a certain amount of tension. Quinn's strongly portrayed characters though, are what made this an enjoyable read for me, rather than the storyline itself. That said, I have to say there were a good few twists throughout, not least at the end! * Thank you to Netgalley, and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my ARC in exchange for an honest review *

  2. 3 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This is a wonderful historical espionage thriller set in WW2 in London. London is experiencing blackouts and suffering under the heavy bombing that is taking its toll on the people and buildings. Jack Hoste (not his real name) is working undercover for the security services as a Gestapo agent supposedly for our friends in Berlin. He has collected a group of individuals, all Nazi sympathisers, who provide intelligence to Jack under the assumption they are aiding the German war effort. Jack is try This is a wonderful historical espionage thriller set in WW2 in London. London is experiencing blackouts and suffering under the heavy bombing that is taking its toll on the people and buildings. Jack Hoste (not his real name) is working undercover for the security services as a Gestapo agent supposedly for our friends in Berlin. He has collected a group of individuals, all Nazi sympathisers, who provide intelligence to Jack under the assumption they are aiding the German war effort. Jack is trying to locate the most dangerous spy, Marita Pardoe, to co-opt her into the group, thereby keeping her under surveillance. She supported Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, and her husband is in an internment camp. Marita proves to be elusive and the only lead Jack has is she was close friends with Amy Strallen. Amy is a partner in a Marriage Bureau, putting together men and women on their books who are looking to get married. Whilst it might be expected that the war would adversely affect business, in reality it has provided a boost, as people feel increasingly insecure when it comes to the future. Jack poses as a tax inspector trying to ensure that the Pardoes get their tax rebate owed to them to get Amy to help him locate Marita. A relationship begins to develop between Amy and Jack, but with Jack working covertly and harbouring secrets, many obstacles lie in their path. After being tested by Marita, Jack manages to incorporate Marita in his group, but she is not an easy person to keep a handle on. She has strong ideas of her own as to what she thinks should be happening, including political assassinations to undermine the British war effort and morale. Amy finds herself drawn into the dark world of espionage and all the dangers it poses at a critical time in British history. Anthony Quinn draws on true events in the writing of this novel set under such dangerous and turbulent times, where the stakes are so high they could influence the direction of the war. Quinn's real skill is in his characterisation, particularly that of Jack, Amy and Marita. War time intrigue is mirrored in the personal intrigues of the relationships between these characters. Quinn provides us with the fascinating backstories of each of the characters, such as Jack's true identity when he was operating as a bank clerk prior to him being taken on by MI5, he takes to his new role as a duck to water. An entertaining and compelling read that I recommend to those interested in this period of history. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I have enjoyed previous novels by Anthony Quinn and was delighted to receive his latest for review, which begins in London, during the Blitz. It is 1941 and Jack Hoste is working undercover, doing his utmost to discover Nazi spies and sympathisers. In particular, he is searching for Marita Pardoe, a friend of Amy Strallen; who works at the, ‘Mayfair Marriage Bureau.’ Desperate to uncover Pardoe’s whereabouts, Hoste makes contact with Amy, in the hopes she will lead him to her. This is an excellen I have enjoyed previous novels by Anthony Quinn and was delighted to receive his latest for review, which begins in London, during the Blitz. It is 1941 and Jack Hoste is working undercover, doing his utmost to discover Nazi spies and sympathisers. In particular, he is searching for Marita Pardoe, a friend of Amy Strallen; who works at the, ‘Mayfair Marriage Bureau.’ Desperate to uncover Pardoe’s whereabouts, Hoste makes contact with Amy, in the hopes she will lead him to her. This is an excellent wartime, spy story, with a good sense of place and time. Wartime London is evocative and the setting realistic. Hoste is juggling many agents, but his undercover identity is always in danger of exposure. Meanwhile, Amy is an innocent, unwittingly caught up in a dangerous situation. Always slightly wary of her intelligent, sharp friend, Marita, she was flattered by her attention and unwilling to challenge her. However, when Marita gets back in touch, it sets in motion a chain of events that will not only put her in personal danger, but could change the course of the war. I liked the characters in this novel and the setting. Amy is a wonderful creation – conflicted, vulnerable and realistic. Hoste (which is not his real name) is also believable and I enjoyed reading about the way he was recruited. I am not convinced that Amy would have been quite as well informed of events as she was – especially in wartime – but I was happy enough to ignore the few question marks over the plot and enjoy the story. Another great read from a very talented author. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jaya

    I am a big fan of espionage thrillers esp those of the relatively bygone eras. There's something endearing? charming ? to read about the times of warfare, in fiction ie., when there was lack of cutting edge technology (as compared to recent times). (As an esrtwhile student of history i've always shied away from the academic history of warfare, I find it too dry and dull). Based on a true incident during the second world war (that I am not aware of and need to check), Our friends in Berlin is a g I am a big fan of espionage thrillers esp those of the relatively bygone eras. There's something endearing? charming ? to read about the times of warfare, in fiction ie., when there was lack of cutting edge technology (as compared to recent times). (As an esrtwhile student of history i've always shied away from the academic history of warfare, I find it too dry and dull). Based on a true incident during the second world war (that I am not aware of and need to check), Our friends in Berlin is a gripping, fast paced espionage thriller, which gives us a glimpse of the day-to-day lives of common Londoners, how lives would go on for people despite of the ongoing war, being subject to frequent bombings, air raids, strict rationing and ever present under currents and threats of conspiracies and spies. The story did have a fairly predictable plot, I still was not expecting the climax! thankfully this prevented the book from being totally predictable. But! the vagaries of a reader, it is the cliched end that I would have definitely wanted for my protags, so deducting a star for not getting the ending that I wanted.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    By coincidence, this is the second novel I've read in a few weeks which has been interested in Nazi sympathisers and the British Union of Fascists during WW2. In places this feels a bit like The Heat Of The Day, but a less literary version and one which tries to pull off a couple of twists. Jack Hoste and Amy are attractive protagonists, though there are places where we have to accept MI5 being extremely open with the information they share with a civilian. There's also a lessening of tension du By coincidence, this is the second novel I've read in a few weeks which has been interested in Nazi sympathisers and the British Union of Fascists during WW2. In places this feels a bit like The Heat Of The Day, but a less literary version and one which tries to pull off a couple of twists. Jack Hoste and Amy are attractive protagonists, though there are places where we have to accept MI5 being extremely open with the information they share with a civilian. There's also a lessening of tension due to the large gaps in chronology between sections as we jump from 1941 to 1935, then 1944 and 1948. Despite that, this is an engaging read, the first section feeling especially well done. And the sexual ambiguity of Amy (view spoiler)[ who ends up being given a ring by one of the female friends with whom she has the closest relationships (hide spoiler)] leaves a haunting sense of intrigue at the end. Thanks to Random House for an ARC via NetGalley.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    British novelist Anthony Quinn is the author of the several mysteries, including a marvelous series, "Freya" and "Curtain Call" (which now has a third book in the series, "Eureka"). He's widely published in the UK and Europe and has lately been published here in the US. His new book, "Our Friends in Berlin" is a stand-alone mystery set in WW2 London and is quite good. The book begins in 1941 London during the Blitz. There's a part set in 1935 and one set in 1948, but basically the main part of th British novelist Anthony Quinn is the author of the several mysteries, including a marvelous series, "Freya" and "Curtain Call" (which now has a third book in the series, "Eureka"). He's widely published in the UK and Europe and has lately been published here in the US. His new book, "Our Friends in Berlin" is a stand-alone mystery set in WW2 London and is quite good. The book begins in 1941 London during the Blitz. There's a part set in 1935 and one set in 1948, but basically the main part of the book is 1941-1944. Quinn establishes time and place with his characters - Jack Hoste, Amy Strallen, and Marita (she of varying last names). Hoste works for MI5 and is in charge with running a group of Nazi spies in the country who report their findings back to him...and assume the info is being sent straight to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. These "spies" are, for the most part, a motley crew and their findings go no further than Hoste's office. But one of the spies is a woman, Marita, who is both tough and smart, and she really, really believes in the Nazi cause. She wants her spying to matter to the German cause. She's been around since the 1930's in school and work and has quite a few friends and contacts. One of her friends is Amy Strallen, who works as a partner in a marriage bureau. Amy doesn't share Marita's sentiments, but has maintained a friendship with her through the years. Anthony Quinn's book mixes the drudgery and sense of personal loss of 1941 London, with the often desperate and forced gaiety of living in a city at war. Hoste and Strellan fall for each other but can't quite get their feelings in sync. The reader roots for these two, while hoping Marita walks off a short pier in the blackout. But life is often messy - particularly at wartime - and the book ends as it should. Anthony Quinn's book is a great read and I think will encourage the reader to explore his backlist.

  7. 3 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    The real-life inspiration for this novel is wartime MI5 agent Eric Roberts. Roberts was born to a middle class Cornwall family and started his adult life as a bank clerk. He was recruited as an MI5 field agent in the 1920s, where his job was to infiltrate fringe groups; first communists and then fascists. From early on in World War II, it was feared that Germany would invade Britain, assisted by so-called “fifth columnists,” British citizens and residents who were Nazi sympathizers and wanted to The real-life inspiration for this novel is wartime MI5 agent Eric Roberts. Roberts was born to a middle class Cornwall family and started his adult life as a bank clerk. He was recruited as an MI5 field agent in the 1920s, where his job was to infiltrate fringe groups; first communists and then fascists. From early on in World War II, it was feared that Germany would invade Britain, assisted by so-called “fifth columnists,” British citizens and residents who were Nazi sympathizers and wanted to pass on information to help the German armed forces. Roberts, using the alias Jack King, pretended to be an officer in the Gestapo working as the point of contact for fifth columnists. He built up a large network of informants, who never twigged that he was really MI5. One of Jack King’s notable informants was Marita Perigoe, a severely beautiful young woman whose husband had been interned as a fascist. The British had picked the wrong member of the couple to lock up. Marita was a naturalized British citizen, with a Swedish and German background. She was virulently anti-Semitic and so pro-Nazi that her “handler” had a difficult time keeping her under control. She always wanted to take a more active role to combat Britain from within and actually did conduct some rogue missions. Despite their frequent head-butting, and Marita's dangerousness, Jack King and Marita Perigoe remained part of the same ostensible spy network until the war’s end. Eric Roberts and Marita Perigoe translate to Jack Hoste and Marita Pardoe in this novel. Hoste has reason to suspect Marita is working for Germany, but nobody can find her. Hoste’s only lead to her is Amy Strallen, a young woman who runs a matrimonial agency, but who had become friendly with Marita before the war, when both were students at the same secretarial college. Anthony Quinn tells us the story from Jack's experience and from Amy's. Amy's having been able to track down Marita, Jack must now encourage Amy to rekindle her friendship with Marita, despite Marita's dangerous nature and Jack's growing feelings for Amy. Beneath the surface relationships among this trio, there lurks danger and betrayal, playing out from 1940 until the approach to D-Day. The premise of the story is excellent and Quinn paints an evocative picture of wartime Britain. There was plenty of tension to keep the pages turning, and the ending is thrilling. But there were a couple of things that prevented this being a top read for me. The friendship between Amy and Marita just never made a lot of sense to me. I can understand how they became friends, and I also understand that anti-Semitism was so common in Britain that it wouldn’t necessarily make Amy drop Marita when she learns that Marita hates Jews. But Amy is exposed to so much of Marita’s treasonous views that I find it hard to believe she would continue their friendship. My second problem is with Amy’s actions toward the end of the book. (view spoiler)[It seemed to me that Amy is unconscionably dense about Marita’s “cousin,” which leads to disaster. I understand that this error of Amy’s lights the spark for the thrilling ending, but I get so tired of how common it is to have a plot turn on a leading female character acting rashly, carelessly or downright stupidly. (hide spoiler)] Despite my issues, I was gripped by the story. If the subject interests you, give it a try. Afterthoughts: When I learned about Jack Hoste and Marita Pardoe being inspired by real-life characters, I did some research and was fascinated by Eric Roberts’s story. His postwar activities are fascinating too. He’s posted to Vienna immediately after the war—shades of The Third Man—and has a unique and poignant story involving the infiltration of the British security services by spies for the Soviet Union. Here’s the other amazing nugget I learned. You know those hundreds of fifth columnists in the ring reporting to Jack King/Hoste? What do you suppose happened to them when the Allies won the war? The answer is, in nearly every case, exactly nothing! Given the role of King/Hoste, MI5 assumed that if the fifth columnists were prosecuted, the defense would claim entrapment, making it not worth it to pursue. Can you imagine what it must have been like for those people, wondering every day if the law--and retribution--would come knocking at the door?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Thoroughly enjoyed this - involving tale of spies, love, menace and courage during the Blitz and its aftermath. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights. 4-4.5 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Well-written with a strong atmosphere and sense of place and historical accuracy. The story idea is an intriguing one. The dialogue is good and rings true for the 1940's - or what we appreciate to be authentic from that time - but... unfortunately, the story never took off for me and neither did the characters who I found unconvincing and not intriguing - at times they seemed almost stereotypical then opaque. It's a slow-moving slice of life in WW2 amongst spies that owes quite a bit to the atmosp Well-written with a strong atmosphere and sense of place and historical accuracy. The story idea is an intriguing one. The dialogue is good and rings true for the 1940's - or what we appreciate to be authentic from that time - but... unfortunately, the story never took off for me and neither did the characters who I found unconvincing and not intriguing - at times they seemed almost stereotypical then opaque. It's a slow-moving slice of life in WW2 amongst spies that owes quite a bit to the atmosphere of Patrick Hamilton novels but has none of his emotional intelligence or talent for telling a story through scenes. It's quite 'told' and literary and this is probably what makes the pace seem comatose. I was hoping for something very different to this. Really it's a 2 star book for me.

  10. 3 out of 5

    michelle

    I would like thank Random House for a copy of Our Friends in Berlin. This is the first book from Anthony Quinn I have read. It’s WW11 London, London is bombarded with German air raids. Jack Hoste is one on several MI5 agents gathering information to aid Hitler’s war machine but he is also on a mission to find the most dangerous of Nazi Agents Marita. While he does this he meets Amy, who is a long-time friend on Marita. She owns a Mayfair Marriage agency. Amy leads a different life but, when she m I would like thank Random House for a copy of Our Friends in Berlin. This is the first book from Anthony Quinn I have read. It’s WW11 London, London is bombarded with German air raids. Jack Hoste is one on several MI5 agents gathering information to aid Hitler’s war machine but he is also on a mission to find the most dangerous of Nazi Agents Marita. While he does this he meets Amy, who is a long-time friend on Marita. She owns a Mayfair Marriage agency. Amy leads a different life but, when she meets Jack her life completely changes. I don’t usually read spy thrillers because I find the context too intense and boring. I requested this as I love stories during the war. But, I found this really enjoyable and an easy read and I just wanted to keep reading to find out more especially what happened to Amy. The author has convinced me to find out more about this particular genre.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    During WW2, Jack Hoste is based in London where he runs a circle of German sympathisers who provide him with intelligence that he can pass onto Berlin. He crosses paths with Amy Strallen, a wonderful character who runs a matchmaking agency. It seems that romance might blossom between them, but then she discovers his secret stash of German war medals. There are a lot of twists in this story. No one - not even Amy, the most straightforward - is quite who you think they are and it certainly doesn't During WW2, Jack Hoste is based in London where he runs a circle of German sympathisers who provide him with intelligence that he can pass onto Berlin. He crosses paths with Amy Strallen, a wonderful character who runs a matchmaking agency. It seems that romance might blossom between them, but then she discovers his secret stash of German war medals. There are a lot of twists in this story. No one - not even Amy, the most straightforward - is quite who you think they are and it certainly doesn't develop in the way you expect it to. It's intriguing, but there's something about it that holds you at arm's length. I liked it but I wasn't engrossed by it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Latkins

    I really love Anthony Quinn's novels, and this new one was a bit different but still as good as his loose trilogy of Curtain Call, Freya and Eureka. It's set among spies in London during WWII, and combines a gripping espionage thriller with a love story. Jack is a spymaster and is looking for a woman called Marita who he wants to recruit to his circle of Nazi sympathisers. His search leads him to Amy, a young woman who was once friends with Marita, and now works at a marriage agency. They are im I really love Anthony Quinn's novels, and this new one was a bit different but still as good as his loose trilogy of Curtain Call, Freya and Eureka. It's set among spies in London during WWII, and combines a gripping espionage thriller with a love story. Jack is a spymaster and is looking for a woman called Marita who he wants to recruit to his circle of Nazi sympathisers. His search leads him to Amy, a young woman who was once friends with Marita, and now works at a marriage agency. They are immediately attracted to one another, but can they trust each other? Secrets, lies, deceit and intrigue abound, but it's Quinn's strong characterisation and writing style that keeps you turning the pages.

  13. 3 out of 5

    Gram

    An intriguing blend of spy thriller and love story, set in London during World War II. It also mixes historical fact with fiction. The story begins with one of the main characters, Jack Hoste, trying to recruit a Nazi sympathiser to his group of "5th Columnists" (British subjects trying to engineer a Nazi victory in their own country). But Hoste is not what he seems. He is really working for “the Section”, part of Britain's intelligence service, aiming to prevent any of these traitors from carry An intriguing blend of spy thriller and love story, set in London during World War II. It also mixes historical fact with fiction. The story begins with one of the main characters, Jack Hoste, trying to recruit a Nazi sympathiser to his group of "5th Columnists" (British subjects trying to engineer a Nazi victory in their own country). But Hoste is not what he seems. He is really working for “the Section”, part of Britain's intelligence service, aiming to prevent any of these traitors from carrying out acts of sabotage, or even assassination. He is also seeking out one of the Nazi Germany's top British agents, Marita Pardoe, a former leading light in Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists an organisation proscribed by the British government, following the start of the Second World War. Pardoe has a close friend, Amy Strallen with whom she travelled to Germany in the 1930's and who Marita thought might be a convert to the Nazi cause. But Amy, now a partner in a Mayfair marriage bureau, wasn't keen on her friend's anti-Semitic stance. However, her continuing friendship with Pardoe leads Jack Hoste to visit the marriage bureau, on the pretence of being a potential client, to discover if Amy knows of her current whereabouts. British Intelligence is keen to ensure Marita poses no threat to their attempts to turn Nazi agents in Britain and prevent her from learning any major military secrets. The story jumps back to the mid 1930's, detailing Amy, Jack and Marita's various personal histories before moving ahead to 1944 with the imminent Allied invasion of Europe. With Marita still at large, Hoste and his colleagues are determined that Nazi agents shouldn't discover details of "Operation Fortitude" - the allied plan which generated detailed plans for a decoy landing at Calais to mislead German intelligence, diverting men and armaments from the true D-day target of Normandy. This book captures the atmosphere of 1940's London both during the London Blitz and the months leading up to the Normandy landings in June 1944. I felt a mixture of emotions about all 3 main characters at different times in the story. There are some wonderful cameos for lesser members of the cast of "Our Friends In Berlin" - Hoste's Section handler Tessa Hammond and his overall boss Traherne and Amy's spirited female friend "Bobby", a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. This is definitely not your usual all action spy thriller, but rather a glimpse of real life wartime London and people who don't fit the popular image of British patriotism and the "Blitz spirit".

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    TR Hangover Square TR Freya TR Our Friends in Berlin

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Duke-Wyer

    A spy novel that is deceptively simple. It is WWII and Jack who works for MI5 is tasked with rooting out sympathisers to Hitler’s cause under the guise of a Gestapo agent working as an Inland Revenue inspector. In an attempt to track down Marita he approaches a young woman who was once a friend and accompanied Marita to Germany to attended one of Hitler’s rallies. He meets Amy at her place of work, a marriage bureau. Although this is not a tense spy novel, nor a James Bond novel, this certainly A spy novel that is deceptively simple. It is WWII and Jack who works for MI5 is tasked with rooting out sympathisers to Hitler’s cause under the guise of a Gestapo agent working as an Inland Revenue inspector. In an attempt to track down Marita he approaches a young woman who was once a friend and accompanied Marita to Germany to attended one of Hitler’s rallies. He meets Amy at her place of work, a marriage bureau. Although this is not a tense spy novel, nor a James Bond novel, this certainly has charm. It flows quite gently which beguiled me into taking it less seriously. Well worth reading, if only for the surprise towards the end. The characters are intriguing, not least Marita but I was entranced by Jack and Amy. Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC via my Kindle in return for an honest review.

  16. 3 out of 5

    Speesh

    Yes, it is a good concept and uncovers, for me anyway, an aspect of the early and middle days of World War II, until the Allied landings in Normandy, that I hadn't really thought a whole lot about. The danger from home-based, home-bred, English/British Nazi sympathisers. And not those in the Aristocracy either. I guess it could be allowed for that there were people, as now, who thought Hitler was on the right track, but to go so far as gather intelligence and attempt to ship that intelligence ba Yes, it is a good concept and uncovers, for me anyway, an aspect of the early and middle days of World War II, until the Allied landings in Normandy, that I hadn't really thought a whole lot about. The danger from home-based, home-bred, English/British Nazi sympathisers. And not those in the Aristocracy either. I guess it could be allowed for that there were people, as now, who thought Hitler was on the right track, but to go so far as gather intelligence and attempt to ship that intelligence back to Berlin, I hadn't really considered it all that much. Yes, it is well written and plotted, but...it really should have been a lot better really. Stronger deeper characterisation, more tension, more of a feeling of dread that it could all go wrong and the war-effort on a knife-edge, especially when one of the friends from Berlin comes over. Especially that could have been handled better, made much more deadly. As it is, it all reads like a Wartime Romance novel, albeit one with a bit of an edge. I wouldn't say it was lacklustre, there is a sense of purpose, and the first half, where he plays us along - that is, if you don't read the back of book blurb - well done. Just a shame the marketing department at Penguin let him down rather and his hard, not quite revealing who is who and what strategy, is undone somewhat. He does however, I feel, get to the heart of the (excuse the pun) 'little Hitlers' that there were, who built their own self-importance up in wartime, by gathering 'intelligence,' and generally making themselves feel important to the only side that made them feel that way. The meetings in pubs, the passing of observations and the characterisations of these nobodies is the best thing in the book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it very much, but I really can't see how it matches up to the praise I've seen written about it and the back of book blurb up top there. You should read it if you want a well-done period piece and a window onto an aspect of WWII in Britain that I don't think there has been written too much about. But don't go expecting a tense thriller. Blog: Speesh Reads Facebook: Speesh Reads Pinterest: Speesh Reads

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Danby

    ‘Our Friends in Berlin’ by Anthony Quinn tells a story of London in World War Two seldom told. It is a spy novel but not a thriller. It focuses on the individuals concerned and has a deceptive pace which means the threats, when they come, are more startling. Jack Hoste is not who he seems to be. He is not a tax inspector; he is not looking for a wife. He is a special agent who tracks down Nazi spies. And at night he is an ARP warden. The juxtaposition of Hoste’s life of secrets is set nicely agai ‘Our Friends in Berlin’ by Anthony Quinn tells a story of London in World War Two seldom told. It is a spy novel but not a thriller. It focuses on the individuals concerned and has a deceptive pace which means the threats, when they come, are more startling. Jack Hoste is not who he seems to be. He is not a tax inspector; he is not looking for a wife. He is a special agent who tracks down Nazi spies. And at night he is an ARP warden. The juxtaposition of Hoste’s life of secrets is set nicely against that of Amy Strallen who works at the Quartermaine Marriage Bureau. Ordinary life does go on in London during the Luftwaffe bombing and Amy must match clients together, a matter of instinct rather than calculation. In order to be matched with the right person, clients are asked to tell the truth about what they are seeking, truths which may have been disguised or hidden until now. Client requests include ‘a lady with capital preferred’ and ‘not American’. Then one day she meets a new client who seems oddly reluctant to explain what he is looking for. The client is Jack Hoste and he doesn’t want a wife, he is searching for Marita Pardoe, a suspected Nazi sympathiser and friend of Amy in the Thirties. What unfolds is a story of spying, gentle romance, betrayal, fanaticism and the life of living in a bombed city. Jack and Amy seem to run on parallel tracks, veering towards and then away from each other, both romantically unsure, both allow the real world to get in the way. And get in the way it does, in the shape of Marita. Quinn is excellent at building characters, he makes you care for them and that’s what keeps you reading. In a time of war, decisions are often made recklessly but Jack and Amy draw back from doing this. Both are people of honour, making the secrets they must keep and the lies they must tell all the more pertinent. The nature of truth is a theme wriggling its way through every page. Anthony Quinn is a favourite author of mine, his novels are each quite different and I will read everything he writes. I read this one quickly. Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-revie...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Finn

    "Our Friends In Berlin", set in London in 1941, is a well-written atmospheric novel with a unique point of view that captures the period well and has a couple of original plot twists but which I found a little too bloodless to be satisfying. The story focuses on three main characters: Jack Hoste, an Englishman running a network of "Fifth Columnists", English Nazi sympathisers and ex-members of the British Union of Fascists, to gather intelligence for Berlin; Marita Pardoe, wife of an interned le "Our Friends In Berlin", set in London in 1941, is a well-written atmospheric novel with a unique point of view that captures the period well and has a couple of original plot twists but which I found a little too bloodless to be satisfying. The story focuses on three main characters: Jack Hoste, an Englishman running a network of "Fifth Columnists", English Nazi sympathisers and ex-members of the British Union of Fascists, to gather intelligence for Berlin; Marita Pardoe, wife of an interned leader of the British Fascist Union, now in hiding but still plotting against the British state and Amy Strallen a young English woman, partner in an at-the-time-innovative marriage bureau and former friend of Marita Pardo. At the start of the novel, I found myself quite disoriented (in a good way) by the idea of a spy novel set in London during the Blitz where the German spies are the heroes. I didn't know where it was going but I enjoyed the way the ever-so-English almost "Mrs Minerva" atmosphere was made oxymoronic when applied to descriptions of "Little England" fifth columnists meeting discuss how to accelerate Hitler's liberation of Europe. There's a strong plot here, some genuinely tense action scenes and an authentic (for an age I have no direct experience of) period feel. I rather liked the way in which Jacks' colleagues were brought to life and I loved the descriptions of the workings of the Marriage Bureau. So why aren't I gushing with enthusiasm? Partly it's because Jack Hoste shows so much sang-froid he eventually comes across as either emotionally crippled or so fatalistic that he's just going through the motions of living. This may be authentic but I found it hard to engage with. I also struggled with the way the novel told Amy Strallen's story. The episodes describing her pre-war relationship with Marita were important to the plot and to character exposition but they felt dumped into the narrative, disrupting the flow rather than adding to the momentum. Focusing the final chapter on Amy felt like a last-ditch attempt for broader significance that didn't quite make it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jo-anne Atkinson

    When Jack Hoste comes to the marriage bureau that Amy Strallen works in, he doesn't seem that eager to find a wife. however Amy keeps 'bumping into' Jack and she grows to like this mild-mannered accountant. After getting caught in a bomb raid Amy goes back to Jack's flat and discovers a collection of iron crosses. She immediately thinks Jack is a Nazi agent and reports him. But Jack is a double agent and Amy has been targeted because of her friendship with a much bigger fish. Anthony Quinn is a s When Jack Hoste comes to the marriage bureau that Amy Strallen works in, he doesn't seem that eager to find a wife. however Amy keeps 'bumping into' Jack and she grows to like this mild-mannered accountant. After getting caught in a bomb raid Amy goes back to Jack's flat and discovers a collection of iron crosses. She immediately thinks Jack is a Nazi agent and reports him. But Jack is a double agent and Amy has been targeted because of her friendship with a much bigger fish. Anthony Quinn is a superb writer of historical fiction which tells very human stories and if one approaches this book with that in mind one cannot help but admire. This book is being purported to be a rip-roaring spy thriller, that it is not. There is some violence and some intrigue but it is more about the relationships between people in the war and how emotions can be suppressed. The writing is wonderful and I felt attached to both Amy and Jack, they are likeable characters holding secrets. The plot is carefully constructed and the two violent incidents seem to come out of the blue. I have loved every book that Quinn has written and this is no exception.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Our Friends in Berlin is another terrific novel from Anthony Quinn. Set in wartime London, it follows the shadow world of Jack Hoste, an MI5 agent masquerading as a member of the Gestapo. Hoste is trying to locate a Mata Hari type figure called Marita Pardoe. For this he needs an unwitting accomplice, Amy Strallen, who was a good friend of Marita before the war. Marita may be a villain but she is cool under pressure and a born survivor. Amy works at a marriage bureau. Through her we get to see a Our Friends in Berlin is another terrific novel from Anthony Quinn. Set in wartime London, it follows the shadow world of Jack Hoste, an MI5 agent masquerading as a member of the Gestapo. Hoste is trying to locate a Mata Hari type figure called Marita Pardoe. For this he needs an unwitting accomplice, Amy Strallen, who was a good friend of Marita before the war. Marita may be a villain but she is cool under pressure and a born survivor. Amy works at a marriage bureau. Through her we get to see another side of wartime life. The war has made people keener to make an emotional connection, and the bureau is unexpectedly booming. Quinn writes with his usual acuity. We get to see a lot of how their minds work and how they are feeling. Lots of times, characters miss signals about how others see them. Jack is unaware of how his long term girlfriend feels about him. Amy chooses not to see Marita making a pass at her on their walking holiday. These imperfections made them more real to the reader. Tension increases throughout the book, as the war reaches its' endgame. The climax of the book is far from predictable. Five stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pgchuis

    3.5* rounded down. To be fair, this book is suffering from my having read it so soon after Kate Atkinson's "Transcription", which covers much of the same ground. It was a quick and easy read, and I enjoyed it, although parts of it stretched credulity. Could middle class people in southern England really afford to pay for the services of a marriage bureau by 1944? The section set in 1935, which was suddenly inserted into the wartime narrative, felt longer than necessary. Then the narrative jumped 3.5* rounded down. To be fair, this book is suffering from my having read it so soon after Kate Atkinson's "Transcription", which covers much of the same ground. It was a quick and easy read, and I enjoyed it, although parts of it stretched credulity. Could middle class people in southern England really afford to pay for the services of a marriage bureau by 1944? The section set in 1935, which was suddenly inserted into the wartime narrative, felt longer than necessary. Then the narrative jumped from 1941 to 1944, during which time Jack had apparently kept his deception going (how? I wanted to know why Marita had apparently been content with the status quo for all these years). Amy was described both as having forgotten all about Jack and also as still having a bit of a thing for him. Jack's character never really came to life and Amy brought things to a head at the end by behaving in a totally stupid fashion. The final chapter confused me - what was its purpose(view spoiler)[(apart from Amy seeing Marita on the bus) (hide spoiler)] ?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lucille

    Our Friends in Berlin is an espionage thriller set in London during World War Two. I enjoyed it very much as it mixes historical events with fiction. Jack Hoste is secretly recruiting Nazi sympathisers to his Fifth Column, explaining that any information they find will be sent directly to Germany to help them in their war effort against the British. But is Jack who he appears to be, an Inland Revenue inspector who is also trying to track down the mysterious Mosely sympathiser Marita and how does Our Friends in Berlin is an espionage thriller set in London during World War Two. I enjoyed it very much as it mixes historical events with fiction. Jack Hoste is secretly recruiting Nazi sympathisers to his Fifth Column, explaining that any information they find will be sent directly to Germany to help them in their war effort against the British. But is Jack who he appears to be, an Inland Revenue inspector who is also trying to track down the mysterious Mosely sympathiser Marita and how does she fit into this intrigue? I particularly liked Amy and her marriage bureau, who play a large part in the story and make it different from most other spy novels. Lots of questions make this a page turner and I can see it made into a film one day. Thanks to NetGalley and Jonathan Cape for the opportunity to read and review Our Friends in Berlin.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rupert

    I really like Anthony Quinn. I enjoyed this as a good thriller, but not up to his usual standard. It reminds me of Robert Harris: good historic thriller, readable, nice history detail - but not much more than that. Quinn usually has such rich characters, and in particular female ones. But Amy & Marita just don't have the depth or reality of Freya or Connie. Similarly, the sense of place and time that makes his other books so rich isn't quite there. I just didn't feel immersed. To be blunt, it I really like Anthony Quinn. I enjoyed this as a good thriller, but not up to his usual standard. It reminds me of Robert Harris: good historic thriller, readable, nice history detail - but not much more than that. Quinn usually has such rich characters, and in particular female ones. But Amy & Marita just don't have the depth or reality of Freya or Connie. Similarly, the sense of place and time that makes his other books so rich isn't quite there. I just didn't feel immersed. To be blunt, it felt a bit 'thin' or rushed. Maybe he wrote it too fast and skipped thing that in previous books he would have gone back to add more richness...? That isn't to say it bad - just not as good as his others.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Lee

    An enthralling novel about “Jack Hoste”, a double cross MI5 agent in WW2 London, rune ning a number of spies and feeding misinformation back to Nazi Germany. The book is full of twists and turns, and is set throughout the war, so it is interesting to see how his relationships with agents, colleagues and others changes over the war years. I found the storyline believable, and well described. It built up to an explosive climax. Ultimately not a happy ending, but one that was in fitting with the sto An enthralling novel about “Jack Hoste”, a double cross MI5 agent in WW2 London, rune ning a number of spies and feeding misinformation back to Nazi Germany. The book is full of twists and turns, and is set throughout the war, so it is interesting to see how his relationships with agents, colleagues and others changes over the war years. I found the storyline believable, and well described. It built up to an explosive climax. Ultimately not a happy ending, but one that was in fitting with the story. I will probably look at other books by this author in the future.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    If you like a plucky wartime heroine, and I do, you can’t go wrong with an Anthony Quinn novel. Amy Strallen isn’t the most consistent character - one minute she’s capable of faultless dissembling, the next she’s being taken in by someone who’s never heard of the WAAF - but she has a tinge of bitterness that I enjoyed. She’s the centre of a rather far-fetched tale of espionage during the Blitz that, if you don’t take it too seriously, is a great little read.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Peter Doherty

    Not sure about this although I finished reading it the book started well then just lost momentum and the characters became one dimensional. THEN came the second part of the book. Much better. Great villain with a complex heart? Overall though not as good as the blurb I’m afraid.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Baker

    Reasonably enjoyable, but just not enough tension for the subject matter. I did like the plot and the basics of the characters and the historical context.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Theresa

    I was looking forward to reading this but couldn’t engage with any of the characters or care much what happened to them. Shame.

  29. 3 out of 5

    Ely

    An enjoyable romp!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christie

    First book I have read by this author. A great story. Spy thriller set in London in WW2.

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