Len Deighton, mastercraftsman of spy thrillers, here applies his eye for stunning detail and his story-telling skill to the novel of action. With documentary precision, he has created a powerful, panoramic account of a bombing raid over the Ruhr during World War II. And in the process, he has written a devastating indictment of war and of the mechanical processes — in man and society — that perpetuate it.
In describing a day in the life of a war, Len Deighton weaves together the lives of three strangers, their lovers, their colleagues and compatriots. At a rural air station in England, a bomber pilot preparing for his forty-sixth raid begins to question the whole strategy of destruction from the air. Across the channel, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot is shocked by the excesses of the regime he serves. And in a little medieval town tucked away in the Ruhr Valley, the veteran commander of a radar station discovers that he is in love. Deighton links the participants through a sequence of grotesque ironies that, on a moonlit night, send the bombers on a futile and disastrous mission.
In the climatic air battle, there are no victors and no vanquished. Len Deighton’s cool, mercilessly exact reconstruction of the raid is overwhelming. For the reader, there is no escape. In the cockpit of a blazing bomber, in a flooding cellar under tons of rubble, in a toppling hospital full of the living dead, he must experience with people he has come to know, the ultimate, horrifying consequences of the war.