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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

Orders from Berlin - Simon Tolkien Hitler often said that Germany and England were natural allies, being fellow "Aryans" and all. He was peeved, to say the least, when England finally declared war after Germany invaded Poland, and greatly annoyed when the milquetoast-y Chamberlain was replaced by the bellicose Winston Churchill. Early in the war, Hitler has plans to invade England and, in Orders From Berlin, his minion, Reinhard Heydrich, has planted a mole in Britain's MI6 whose mission is to mislead the English about Germany's plans.

We're told right from the get-go that the mole is a man named Seaforth, and that his disinformation campaign is going so well that he's being invited to brief Churchill with only his immediate superior, Thorn, present. That gives Heydrich an idea: have Seaforth assassinate Churchill at one of these briefings. Thorn has been suspicious of Seaforth all along, but the MI6 chief, "C," is so in love with Seaforth's (dis)information that he won't hear a word against him.

When Thorn's former mentor and retired MI6 chief, Albert Morrison, is murdered shortly after Thorn has consulted him about a strange message intercepted from Germany, Thorn's suspicions are heightened, but C is recalcitrant. The police investigation is conducted by Inspector Quaid and Detective Sergeant Trave. Quaid is convinced that Morrison was killed by his son-in-law, the smarmy Dr. Brive, but Trave very much doubts it. He thinks it's a more complex case than Quaid wants to believe.

This is a straight-ahead historical thriller that moves along briskly and is wrapped up in just over 300 pages. It was interesting enough, but if you're going to reveal the bad guy right from the start––in other words, if the book isn't a whodunnit––then more complexity in the howdunnit/whydunnit would have been welcome. The Quaid/Trave duo is similar to the C/Thorn team, in that the boss seems never to have heard that some things really are too good to be true, and stands in the way of his junior's attempts to conduct a thorough investigation. The pairs and their dynamic were so similar that it felt like lazy writing.

For me, a no-better-than-average read.