TITLE: A Death in Berlin
AUTHOR: David C. Dawson
Release Date: September 28th 2022
Genre: Romance, historical, mystery and suspense
Berlin 1933: When the parties stop…the dying begins
The city that’s been a beacon of liberation during the 1920s is about to become a city of deadly oppression. BBC foreign correspondent Simon Sampson risks his life in a bid to save thousands of gay men from the growing Nazi threat.
This is the second in the Simon Sampson mystery series. The first, A Death in Bloomsbury, was hailed as ‘a good old-fashioned John Buchan-esque mystery reworked for the twenty-first century’.
Simon moves to Berlin where he meets British author Christopher Isherwood and his lover Heinz. He’s also reunited with his banter-partner Florence Miles, better known to her friends as Bill. She’s recruited him into the British intelligence services and he’s got the task of hunting down communist spies.
But when Simon is ordered to spy on an old college friend, his loyalties are brought into question. Who are his real enemies? And how much can he trust his masters?
Amazon universal link: https://geni.us/ADeathinBerlin
Author biography: David C Dawson writes thrillers with gay heroes in love at their core. His latest book A Death in Berlin is the second in the Simon Sampson Mysteries series. It’s a thriller based in 1930s Berlin, when gay men were known as ‘other’.
His debut novel The Necessary Deaths won a bronze medal for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA awards. Rainbow Reviews said it was “an exciting read with complex characters”.
David worked for the BBC as a journalist. He lives near Oxford in the UK, with his ageing Triumph motorbike and two cats.
Berlin, early 1933
The cardboard box held between a hundred and two hundred files—a lot of paper. It probably weighed between thirty and forty pounds, and Simon had carried several more like it that evening. He leaned against the side of the lorry and caught his breath.
“No slacking.” The woman’s voice behind him was commanding. “We haven’t got time to be idling around. They could turn up at any moment.”
“Who’s ‘they’, Bill?” Simon slid his cardboard box into position beside the others in the open back of the lorry. “No one’s going to want to come out here at three o’clock in the morning.”
He stepped aside, and Bill placed her cargo alongside his.
“Take your pick. The police, the Sturmabteilung, the Sicherheitspolizei.” Bill reeled off the names rapidly. “Berlin is absolutely swarming with authoritarian men who’d much prefer that we weren’t here doing this.”
She lit a cigarette. “You of all people must know your enemies by now.” She exhaled smoke into the freezing evening air and absently waved the cigarette around her head. “I know you’ve not been here long, but we hired you into the Special Intelligence Services because you were supposed to have a modicum of intelligence between those two ears of yours.”
“At your service, Miss Miles.” Simon gave a slow, mocking salute.
“For god’s sake I’ve told you before, darling.” Bill took a lungful of smoke and exhaled with a cough. “Just because you work for me doesn’t mean you have to use my real name.” She thought for a moment. “Actually, now you’re in SIS it’s even more reason why you shouldn’t use my real name. And please don’t call me Florence.”
“No, boss.” Simon leaned against the back of the lorry and folded his arms. “Just think. A couple of months ago I’d never have dreamed I’d be calling you that.”
“And doesn’t it sound good.” Bill inhaled another lungful of smoke and blew it out into the night air. “Now run along, darling, and get another box. You never know when some man with insomnia out walking his dog is going to spot us. He’ll do his patriotic duty to this new Third Reich and report what he’s seen, and the place will be full of spotty-faced youths in uniforms and boots quicker than you can say Heil Hitler.”
“And meanwhile you plan to stay here?” Simon asked. “A moment ago you accused me of slacking. Now you’re lazing around smoking another cigarette.”
“Naturally, my darling.” Bill raised her head and blew smoke into the air. “I’ve carried far more of these damn boxes than you. You’re only getting special treatment because of that injured leg of yours. If you’re in such a hurry, go and get another one. I’ll be along in a minute.”
She waved towards the building and smiled sweetly.
Simon limped back along the path to retrieve another box of files. The full moon’s dappled light filtered through the trees in Berlin’s five-hundred-acre park and made it easier for Simon and Bill to find their way around the gloomy corridors of number one Beethovenstraße as they raided the building’s archives. But it also shone an unforgiving light on them loading the lorry, making it obvious what they were doing to anyone who might venture by.
As Simon reached the open doorway of the elegant nineteenth-century building he heard a man call out in the distance.
“Halt! Was machen Sie da?”
Simon returned to the back of the lorry as fast as he could. Bill was already struggling to secure the tailgate.
“What kept you?” she asked. “Fix this will you? I’ll start the engine and get us out of here. I always knew this was a damn fool idea.”
Simon latched the tailgate and climbed into the passenger seat alongside Bill. She pushed a metal pin beneath the dashboard to fire up the starter motor and the engine roared into life.
“He hasn’t got a hope of catching us,” she said. “I’m sure he’s from the Sturmabteilung. Even from this distance the moonlight shows up that tasteful shade of brown of his uniform. But at least the poor love’s only got a bicycle.”
There was the sound of a gunshot and a bullet shattered the glass of the wing-mirror. Bill wrenched the gear lever into first and the lorry lurched forward. A second gunshot smashed the glass in the back of the cabin.
Simon instinctively ducked to avoid the bullet. “You were saying?” he asked. “He’s got more than a bicycle and he’s not a bad shot, worse luck.”
By way of confirmation, a third gunshot caused the lorry to swerve drunkenly from side to side.
“Damn. He’s hit the tyre.” Bill struggled to change into second gear, and accelerated east along the perimeter of the Tiergarten. The back end of the lorry had dropped on one side and it bounced and swayed across the width of the road.
Simon turned to look at the open boxes in the back of the lorry. “Slow down. If you go any faster the files are going to be thrown all over the road. We may as well stop and hand them out to anyone who’s interested.”
Bill ignored him and pushed the gear into third as Simon saw the Brandenburg Gate ahead of them.
“Are you listening to me?” he shouted. “Where are you taking us anyway?”
Bill’s knuckles whitened as she fought to keep control of the vehicle. “The British Embassy.”
“Are you mad?”
“Can you think of anywhere else?” she shouted back. “We’re not going to get out of Berlin in this contraption. Not now the tyre’s blown.”
“But you’ll cause a major diplomatic incident if we bowl up there,” Simon replied. “His Majesty’s Government will be very upset.”
“It’s not the first time we’ve upset them, my love. They should be getting used to it by now.”