The Unfortunate Englishman


Title:                      The Unfortunate Englishman

Author:                John Lawton

Lawton, John (2016). The Unfortunate Englishman. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press

OCLC:    939922308

Summary: Directed by MI6 to Berlin in 1963 to negotiate a delicate prisoner exchange on either side of the wall, Joe Wilderness covertly plans to use the operation to make a little something extra on the side, with unexpected results.
Subjects

Date Posted:      November 23, 2016

Review by Jefferson Flanders[1]

Writing an effective sequel can prove to be can be a tricky thing: provide too much backstory, and readers who enjoyed the initial book may be bored or turned off; offer too little context, and new readers may be lost. Making sure that the “next book” stands by itself isn’t easy.[2]

The challenges of crafting a seamless sequel are apparent in The Unfortunate Englishman, a spy thriller by John Lawton. His cynical protagonist, Joe Wilderness, is tasked by British intelligence to return to Berlin in 1965 to negotiate a spy exchange. Wilderness has a checkered past in Germany (a failed romance, involvement in the black market) and proves willing to cut corners, legal and ethical. The narrative jumps around in time, as Wilderness tries to complete his mission for MI6 while resolving unfinished business involving a pre-Wall smuggling operation.

There’s a lot to like in The Unfortunate Englishman. Lawton is a clever and talented writer, with a dry English sense of humor, and an ear for dialogue. He paints a convincing picture of Cold War Berlin. The book’s plot line can be hard to follow, however, made more complicated by the numerous flashbacks, and I found myself wishing that I had read the first Joe Wilderness novel, Then We Take Berlin.

[1] Jefferson Flanders, “Top Spy Thrillers and Espionage Novels of 2016,” downloaded November 21, 2016

[2] Lawton, John (2013). Then We Take Berlin. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press

Advertisements
This entry was posted in British Intelligence and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s