Discharged from the army, Johnny Donoghue gets hired by the Secret Intelligence Service. His assignment is to infiltrate East Germany. There he has to arrange the defection of the Guttmans: an old scientist working on Russian weapon systems and his daughter. But the plan fails. The driver of the car that should bring the Guttmans to West Germany gets betrayed and is arrested at the border. Johnny and the Guttmans are now wanted and on their own, and their only chance for escape is to cross the well-guarded inner German border....
I found the first half of The Contract rather long-winded and boring. Fortunately, this changed in the second half, which I enjoyed. Only the end was too abrupt, and an epilogue explaining what happened afterwards would have been nice.
Quotes from the book
If there is a civilian close to the wire, shoot. That was the order given to the boys in the company at Weferlingen. Shoot to kill. Do not challenge and offer the fugitive the opportunity to run for the wire and try to climb. Shoot to prevent the fence being breached.
"A dreadful place that Belfast. I go down on my knees each night and pray God I'm not sent there."
"What's this all about?" [...] Johnny grinned. "It's called 'national security', with all that that involves, all the rigmarole." - "He said you were trying to kill someone." - "If I were you I'd dig a hole and drop everything the kid said into it, and then fill the hole in and stamp the earth down. That's my advice."
How could Willi have allowed himself to die? How could he have been so stupid?
It was their work to ensure that no soldier trusted his colleague, their work to ensure that on the border no soldier owned a friend. Too close to the fence for that, too close to the green grass beyond the wire.
"He is an uncommunicative swine." - "Has to be if he's to survive in that business, and he's a survivor."
"A boy and a girl came to the wire last night. They failed at the first hurdle because they had no plan. One is dead, one is captured because they had no plan, they were not exact. They believed that will alone was enough."
"I believe in nothing I am not myself responsible for."