A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by George Kelley & Bill Pronzini

JOHN GARDNER – The Garden of Weapons. McGraw-Hill, US. hardcover, 1981. Mysterious Press, US, paperback, 1984. Published earlier in the UK by Hodder, hardcover, 1980.

   John Gardner is one of the most versatile British writers in the espionage genre. He gained early recognition for his Boysie Oakes series – The Liquidators (1964), Amber Nine (1966), and five others which he created in the hope they would be an “amusing counterirritant to the excesses” of James Bond; these were written in the black-humor style characteristic of the Sixties. In the Seventies, Gardner scored additional critical and sales triumphs with a much different type of series – one featuring Sherlock Holmes’s archenemy, Professor Moriarity, in The Retum of Moriarity (1974) and The Revenge of Moriarity (1975). And in the Eighties, Gardner returned to the frantic world of Bondian spies — literally — when he began a series of new 007 adventures.

   But Gardner’s best book to date is not one featuring a series character; it is the realistic espionage thriller The Garden of Weapons, which begins when a KGB defector walks into the British Consulate in West Berlin and demands to speak with Big Herbie Kruger, a legendary figure in intelligence circles. Kruger’s interrogation of the defector reveals that the greatest of Kruger’s intelligence coups — a group of six informants known as the Telegraph Boys — has been penetrated by a Soviet spy. Kruger decides to go undercover and eliminate the double agent himself. without the knowledge or consent of British Intelligence.

   Posing as an American tourist, Kruger enters East Berlin to carry out his deadly self-appointed miss1on. But the task is hardly a simple one; and Gardner’s plot is full of Byzantine twists and turns involving the East Germans, the KGB, and British Intelligence. Any reader who enjoys espionage fiction will find The Garden of Weapons a small masterpiece of its type.

   Another non-series Gardner thriller in the same vein is The Werewolf Trace (1977), which has been called “a compulsively readable thriller with delicately handled paranormal undertones and a bitter ending.”
Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.


Bibliographic Update: As it so happens, The Garden of Weapons was not a standalone. There were seven in all, all but one published after this one:

      The Herbie Kruger series —

The Nostradamus Traitor (n.) Hodder 1979.
The Garden of Weapons (n.) Hodder 1980.
The Quiet Dogs (n.) Hodder 1982.
The Secret Houses (n.) Bantam 1988.
The Secret Families (n.) Bantam 1989.
Maestro (n.) Bantam 1993.
Confessor (n.) Bantam 1995.