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Publisher's Summary

War-weary Berlin has much to offer Leonard Markham, a young, naive postal engineer: first the arts of sophisticated intrigue, then the delights of sexual pleasure. But Leonard's new knowledge carries a heavy price, dragging him and the listener into a new type of story that is exhaustively suspenseful and utterly irresistible.
Listen to an interview with Ian McEwan on Charlie Rose.
©1990 Ian McEwan; (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"McEwan's name will be on everyone's lips with his startling new novel, an impeccably constructed psychological thriller set in Berlin during the Cold War....McEwan's neat, tensile prose raises this book to the highest level of the genre." (Publishers Weekly)
"A tour de force of horror and philosophical suspense." (The New York Times)
"So exhaustively suspenseful....It should be devoured at one sitting." (Newsweek)
"McEwan...a breathtaking master...has written a blueprint for the future of the genre." (Time)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    35
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    54
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    25
  • 2 Stars
    9
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    4

Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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    29
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    25
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    9
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Story

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

A Lifelike Knot of Possibilities

At first I thought this was going to be "The Spy Who Fell Into the Cold War." The setting was right; the characters were available, but then, like life, it veered into an unexpected alley. So I thought it was going to be about romance and trust and danger. But the danger wasn't from the embattled governments or other outside influences in the divided city or the divided society; the danger was from inside the relationship, from inside the individuals. Then, like life, the story veered again, coping with danger, and danger was like a voracious beast intent on devouring the trust and the romance. Only the ending of the novel doesn't ring true for me, the looking back, the untying, the rekindling; these are the postscripts to a Hollywood movie, the way we'd like things to be, under control and logical, but not very lifelike.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A little gem

I read it entirely by accident and could not put it down . Well written, good character developement and portrayed spying from a down to earth perspective and honesty. There are no heroes, we see people with all their faults and idiosyncracies, stumbling through life. A work of fiction but set around an event that really occured.
I knew Berlin in the cold war era and the book and characters made me have a certain nostalgia for a time which is now gone forever( thank God ) and the players of the game, US, Brits and Germans and of course the Russian bear . I reccomend it.
Geoff Holdway MD Ancaster ON Canada

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Extremely good just up until the end.

I just loved this book and the characters. The reader was excellent. High adventure and intrigue, history...everything about it was perfect until the end which turned out was just lobbed off. You never find out what happens to everyone, it just ends. I personally really hate that and so I gave it 4 stars. It would have been a 5+ if not for the "no ending" ending.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Terrible narrator

This book has an interesting story but the narrator has a stilted style that is distracting while listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Incredibly Depressing, But Worth It

If you want to read a story about a truly and deeply flawed Cold War British telephonics nerd who goes to Berlin, grows up, and discovers exactly how far he'll go to get, to win back, and to keep the love of his life, this is your book.

But be forewarned: The flaws are deep, and the flawed man's actions are the most extreme there are. This is no Humphrey Bogart movie of a novel. It's more of a Coen Brothers-style Hitchcock film, with a touch of Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud.

Also, John Franklyn-Robbins does an admirable job remaining in the characters of several people who would be about as likable and cuddly as angry hornets if they were real and you met them in person. I don't think I would have been able to make it past that first bad thing that Leonard does to Maria if I hadn't been hearing both characters played ably and sensitively by a nuanced and thoughtful actor.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Been There, Done That

This romance novel for men is unoriginal and lacking suspense. Perhaps it's a testament to our jaded times that the graphic sex is tedious, the espionage lacks suspense, and the gruesome murder fails to shock or surprise. The unrealistic, tidy ending is a joke. The author seems to want to be Graham Greene but ends up being Barbara Cartland. I like the narrator, which is why I stuck with it until the end.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Pamela
  • Sonoma, CA, United States
  • 08-10-04

BIG YAWN. Slow story, dense main character

I have never encountered such a dense, naive main character until I read this book. The story is slow to develop, and there is nothing about any of the characters that make me give a hoot what happens to them. As a matter of fact, Leonard, the main character, is thick-headed and such an idiot that I want to see him caught! Even for those readers who like US vs. Soviet or Allies vs. Axis spy stories, this is just too unbelievable a yarn to hold one's attention.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

long, boring and gruesome

this story took forever to go someplace and when it got there it was beyond horrific. i tried not listening to the extremely gory parts, trying to get through it. but eventually gave up. i just didn't care enough to go on with it.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful