"Quiller KGB", by Adam Hall

(actualisé le ) by Ray

This is a book for the grown-up versions of those who enjoyed playing with Action Man and toy soldiers at an earlier age, so most of the ladies in the audience can click now on another subject - this one is not for you, sorry.

An undercover agent on an urgent mission of the utmost importance for his country. An utterly ruthless and efficient opposition organisation with almost unlimited ressources. Safe houses, a brilliant but heartless director in the field providing liaison and material support, danger, death, daring, a permanent struggle to stay alive and to outwit and outfight a violent and intelligent enemy. Yes, this is the world of Quiller, a shadow executive working for the Bureau, a secret British spy organisation specialising in covert operations abroad which reports directly to the Prime Minister.

In this book, Quiller is in East Berlin working with his Soviet counterparts to enable ... the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in a democratic regime! That must have seemed really far-fetched when the book appeared in July 1989 - I am not aware of any other book or article published anywhere before November 1989 that saw that as being even possible in the medium term, let alone imminent, and it still seems somehow incredible 15 years later that those momentous events actually did take place that very same year.

Adam Hall has a distinctive, direct style which is particularly effective in getting you involved from the start and keeping you hanging in there wondering if you’ll be able to stand the strain and the excitement through to the end. Everything is seen via the interior monologue of the narrator, who is articulate and intelligent and particularly competent in the art of unarmed combat (Hall is a karate black belt and really knows what he is talking about) and in driving vehicules under stressful conditions, who speaks fluent German, Russian and French. The first few opening lines already provide a sense of urgency while the reader and the narratror go through the discovery phase of the new mission. Something unexpected and dramatic tends to happen at the end of each chapter, while the scene switches abruptly elsewhere in the following one where we learn only gradually and in retrospect how the previous situation worked out. The tension that is constantly building up culminates in one or two key action scenes which Adam Hall knows how to describe better and more convincingly than absolutely anyone else, Alexandre Dumas and Théophile Gautier (Le Capitaine Fracasse) excepted, I do believe.

This was the 13th in the series of Quiller books that began with The Quiller Memorandum in 1965. While it is not quite up to the level of the very best in the series - those published during the 1970s such as The Warsaw Document and The Tango Briefing and The Scorpion Signal - I thoroughly enjoyed it and can heartily recommend it.

Charter Books, 312 pages.