Death in Berlin

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The book opens with a prologue, set in 1940, a terse account of an only partially successful attempt by a group of refugees to escape the havoc of Europe for the comparative safety of England. The story itself begins in Germany in 1953 as British army officers and their families travel by train to Berlin to take up posts in the British sector. On the train is Miranda Brand, accompanying her army relatives to spend a month’s holiday with them. During a layover, Brigadier Brindley recounts a bizarre tale about his acquaintance with a Nazi secret service agent who had allegedly disappeared with a king’s ransom in diamonds. While no trace was ever found of the official and his wife, a fortune in jewelry and money was found sometime later inside the doll of an English child who had returned to England in the company of a group of refugees.

As coincidence would have it, Miranda figures in the story. Within hours, as the train races toward Berlin, the brigadier is murdered and Miranda becomes the prime suspect. As murder follows murder, the central twelve adult travelers are reduced to eleven, then ten, then nine, while the enigmatic British intelligence officer, Simon Lang, seeks to solve the crimes before Miranda herself becomes a victim.

All the ingredients of a good mystery are here: a band of distinctive characters, a missing fortune in gemstones, foreign intrigue, and a developing love story. The author was herself a British army wife, and the mood and tone of the story are enhanced by carefully selected details which she noted during her own stay in postwar Berlin.

For M.M. Kaye fans, the story follows the familiar formula of her other murder mysteries yet keeps the reader guessing by the clever blending of plot lines that at first appear to be distinct.