Death in Berlin - round 2

Regular Bookhounders may have noticed that a few weeks (or was it months ago?) I decided to change the layout and look of the blog so that Bookhound had a new snappy feel to it. It also made it a lot easier for those who only see it on mobile devices - and as I now principally use an android at home, I had some sympathy with the difference between viewing a blog on a pc or a mobile device. I'm pleased with the general look of the blog, but there have been some unfortunate side-effects as earlier posts seem to have disappeared. Search for them as you will on Blogger, you will not find them. Search on Google however, and they magically re-appear. A useful lesson for anyone struggling to find something that they were sure they'd posted to Blogger, and are now fearing is actually a symptom of galloping senility.

Anyway, having just re-read M.M. Kaye's Death in Berlin, not having blogged on it for some time, and having had a great deal of fun(!) trying to find a post that I was sure I had posted, but that Blogger was trying to hide from me (Here it is!!!). It seems appropriate to re-visit the novel.

I love M.M. Kaye. Women in danger novels tend to be my comfort read; a literary version of Bread-and-Butter-pudding. They're not great literature, my feminist hackles should be rising like crazy; but there's something endearingly loveable about them. And even though the heroine may be in danger, she's usually a great feisty character who gives as good as she gets.

Death in Berlin, which I believe was Kaye's first novel, is not her best in terms of characterisation, and the plot is pretty thin too. There are coincidences aplenty, a murderer too many, and a plot that you can pick oodles of holes in. And yet, there is something very good about it. What Kaye does do brilliantly is create a sense of place. The Berlin of the early 1950s still rising from the rubble-strewn ashes of the war, but not yet divided by the Berlin Wall, is evoked beautifully. As memorable and charismatic as the Vienna of The Third Man.

Also rising from the ashes is the troubled world of that war-torn city. Germany is on the brink of the economic miracle, but families divided by war and by the politics of the pre-war period are still trying to form new alliances and cement old ones. This is a troubled world against which Kaye's crime novel is plotted.

Kaye was always very good at background colour. This is very noticeable in her blockbuster novels such as The Far Pavilions. The detective novels are often lighter, and lack character, but you forgive her a lot for what is generally a fun plot with some striking background detail, and an atmosphere as foggy as a pea-souper. For a quiet girl's day in - M.M. Kaye, a cup of cocoa, and a strokeable dog takes a bit of beating.


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