Operation Gold was one of the CIA’s great exploits of the Cold War: a tunnel running from West Berlin into the Russian sector to tap into the Soviet communication lines. It was believed to be a great success when the Russians broke into the tunnel in 1956. Later it was discovered that George Blake, the MI6 traitor, had betrayed the tunnel from the beginning.
Leonard Marnham is a British Post Office engineer who is sent to Berlin to help the Americans. A naive 25-year-old virgin who lives at home with his parents, he starts to blossom when he meets Maria, a pretty German girl. Things are mostly going well—sex; some jealousy; engagement; the British want him to lift American technology—when a tragic accident occurs. The blackly comic consequences put an end to whatever innocence remained to him.
McEwen is an astute observer of character and a fine storyteller.