In this, the fourth installment of Noel Hynd’s hugely popular Flowers from Berlin series, William Thomas Cochrane returns to Berlin as part of a permanent intelligence posting, replacing an old friend. Cochrane has a special knowledge of Berlin and its people, having worked there undercover during the Hitler era, during World War II, and during the successful 1948-49 airlift. But before Cochrane can safely settle his family in Berlin, he finds himself investigating the suspicious death of the man he succeeded.
It is now the early 1950s. The former capital of Nazi Germany has emerged as the most volatile flashpoint of the Cold War. In Washington, Dwight Eisenhower is the newly elected President of the United States. In Moscow, Joseph Stalin is gravely ill but more aggressive than ever. He rules a Soviet Union that has gone from a backward nation to a world power in four decades. Emboldened now by atomic weapons, the Soviets are hell-bent on forcing the Western Powers – France, Great Britain, and the United States – out of the still-divided former capital. The pro-Moscow Communist government of East Germany controls East Berlin while the United States and its wartime allies control the other half of the city.
And that is only where Cochrane’s problems begin. Soon after his return, a simmering labor conflict explodes between East German workers and their government. The government demands increases in work quotas but without an increase in state-subsidized pay. Shortages of food and clothing accompany the rationing of electricity. A strike among construction workers grows into a mass protest involving fifty thousand East German citizens. Some Berliners in the angry protest demand the removal of the pro-Moscow East German government. East German police and Soviet troops move in and fire on the crowd, killing hundreds.
Within days of his arrival, Bill Cochrane faces a Berlin that is a more treacherous place than ever. Old friends come in and out of the rain and fog above the Rivers Spree and Havel. But so do old enemies. And so do some old friends who may actually be new enemies. Treachery and violence hang in the air, as do menace and betrayal. Berlin is a city where no one is safe, and nothing is sacred. People disappear. Traitors are everywhere. Murders are common.
And then there is the biggest enemy of all: Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, the Ministry for State Security, the new East German secret police agency. Modeled on the Soviet KGB, the “Stasi” has quickly become the most feared and vicious secret police agency in the postwar world.
Quickly, Bill Cochrane realizes that the assignment confronting him will require a painstaking voyage through the murky, multi-faceted world of his own past and Soviet-American espionage. Within days of his arrival, Cochrane finds his life, his family, and his career under attack. But from where? From East Germany? From the KGB in Moscow? From an old adversary stepping out of the past? Or from a betrayal from within that is too venal and personal for him to even imagine, much less face?