Santiago 1973: Pinochet has made his move and violence has erupted all over the city. A young Rosa Rossman is left orphaned and forced to flee across the Andes. Finding unlikely refuge with a Stasi spy, Rosa is taken to Germany, behind the Iron Curtain.
East Berlin 1989: Englishman Patrick Miller has crossed over and is working for the Secretariat for Social Correctness in Publishing. Dragged into a dangerous, cynical world of shady dealings on both sides of the Wall, Patrick doesn’t know what he believes in anymore. Until he meets Rosa.
As the Soviet Union starts to break up around them, the tide of change is too strong for even the much feared Stasi to hold back. But once the barriers are down and the rubble cleared, what kind of country will they be left with?
Few books have left me as fulfilled as Kevin Brophy’s Another Kind of Country. It is not just that here is a truly cracking yarn, or that you become captivated by the tension and raw emotions of the key players, it is also that it leaves you with a feeling that you know and understand a lot more about the dark and dangerous times in which the story is set.
Quite simply, this has got it all… the command of the written word, the mastery of storytelling, and the ease with which the author compels you to turn each page with relish are rare traits in today’s world of glossy fiction.
Think of previous works that have centred on East German intrigue and the names of Deighton and le Carré jump to the forefront. This is not only up there, but goes beyond anything that’s gone before in its study of the human spirit, and the ability of individuals to triumph over the most challenging of adversities,
In Patrick Miller the author has constructed a spy that would make even Deighton’s Harry Palmer look positively James Bond-ish. A more laid back, uninteresting person you couldn’t wish to meet, yet somehow you start rooting for him. The whys and wherefores that took this apparently mundane man behind the Berlin Wall are totally overlooked when measured against what he begins to face. As the pace quickens, you can’t help but hope that all turns out right for him and his new-found girlfriend, Rosa Rossman, whose own back-story deserves a novel of its own.
There is terrific interaction between the book’s British and American spymasters, who leave you wondering just who are the good guys. The introduction of a potential coup by GDR generals simply adds spice to the build-up of tensions as the last days of a failed state are played out.
This is not just another book in a long line of solid works of fiction. It deserves to be treated as a literary masterpiece, something that ought to find its way onto school curricula, or be judged against anything that Booker entrants have thrown up in recent years.
It is that good.
Another Kind of Country is published by the Headline Publishing Group and is available in hardback, softback and Kindle formats.