In 2012, former BBC journalist Alex Gerlis brought out the first of four outstanding spy novels set during World War II. That book, The Best of Our Spies, is now in development as a television series. He followed these first four novels with a second and less successful four-book series featuring British intelligence officer Richard Prince. Later, Gerlis launched the first of yet a third series, the Wolf Pack thrillers about British spies in Nazi Germany. The series debuted in 2021 with Agent in Berlin. Like his previous work, it’s thoroughly backstopped with historical research and is tightly plotted.
A “wolf pack” of British spies in Nazi Germany
Gerlis begins the novel with a two-and-a-half page list of “main characters.” In fact, the names in the list constitute nearly every character who appears in the novel. But only five are truly central to the story—the four men and one woman who emerge in time as the “wolf pack” of the series title:
- Barnaby Allen, an MI6 officer known as Barney whose generous private income had disappeared in the Depression, forcing him to work for a salary
- Werner Lustenberger, a gay German businessman Barney cultivates as an agent and eventually recruits
- Jack Miller, an accomplished American journalist seeking fame in Berlin
- Tadashi Kimura, a senior Japanese diplomat close to his ambassador
- And Sophia von Naundorf, the anti-Nazi wife of a high-ranking SS officer
Agent in Berlin (Wolf Pack #1) by Alex Gerlis (2021) 410 pages ★★★★☆
A story spanning the years 1935 to 1941
The novel opens on December 7, 1941, as Japanese aircraft rain death and terror on the US Navy gathered at Pearl Harbor. Following this prologue, the story begins in England in 1935 as the minority in His Majesty’s Government who fear the rise of fascism maneuver behind the scenes. Barney Allen joins the anti-Nazi faction and soon departs for Germany, intent on recruiting agents who can supply the information and insight to inform the British about Hitler’s true intentions. The story of the “wolf pack” of spies he recruits unfolds over the six years that elapse until the United States and Nazi Germany mutually declare war.
Gerlis is an energetic and thorough researcher. Agent in Berlin encompasses intimate detail about such topics as the conflict within the British government over appeasement, the Nazis’ English-language broadcasts, the wartime German aircraft industry, and the massacres of Jews and Communists alike by the SS in the wake of the Nazi invasion.
About the author
Alex Gerlis is frequently asked if he’s ever worked for an intelligence agency but always declines to answer the question in the hope that someone may believe he actually has. In fact, he was a BBC journalist for nearly thirty years but left in 2011 to concentrate on his writing. He has published nine Second World War espionage thrillers to date. Gerlis was born in 1955 in Lincolnshire, UK. He now lives in west London with his wife. They have two daughters and two grandsons.
For more reading
You’ll find other novels of espionage by the author at Top-notch spy novels from Alex Gerlis.
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