Where Horse Under Water (the immediately prior “Secret File” by Deighton) had a crossword conceit, Funeral in Berlin is instead ornamented with chess tactics. I read it as a chaser to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and it worked well that way, highlighting the distinctive styles of the two authors–not to mention the fact that Deighton’s book did in fact follow le Carré’s by about a year (i.e. 1963, 1964).
The anonymous narrating agent cracks wise with even more consistency than in the previous books. There are fifty-one short chapters, which tend to lengthen slightly towards the end. The extremely circumspect first-person prose is broken up with five chapters that use third-person passages to give the viewpoints of other key characters. There are also a set of six brief appendices furnishing overviews of relevant intelligence agencies and legal and technological contexts. These are helpful for readers enjoying the book more than a half century after it was written, but for some reason I was irked by the footnote method of referencing them during the story.
There were a couple of curious and welcome minor details during the closing chapters. Chapter 45 saw our man unwinding with a copy of J.F.C. Fuller’s Decisive Battles of the Western World. In chapter 49 he discussed with his superior Dawlish the organizational need “to take the social pressures off the homosexuals.”
The 2009 edition I read was equipped with a new author’s introduction regarding his “most successful book” by certain commercial measures. Deighton reflects there on his own experiences in East Germany and his disinterest in writing “serious literature.”
At the rate I’ve been reading these “Secret File” novels, I won’t finish them until 2035 or thereabouts, but they are all at the public library, and they read fast enough individually that I could mop up all of them next month. I certainly aim to continue at some pace or other.