From “master of the genre” (The Washington Post) Joseph Kanon, an espionage thriller set at the height of the Cold War, when a captured American who has spied for the KGB is swapped by the British and returns to East Berlin needing to know who arranged his release and what they want from him.
Berlin. 1963. The height of the Cold War. An early morning spy swap, not at the familiar setting for such exchanges, or at Checkpoint Charlie, where international visitors cross into the East, but at a more discreet border crossing, usually reserved for East German VIPs. The Communists are trading two American students caught helping people to escape over the wall and an aging MI6 operative. On the other side of the trade: Martin Keller, a physicist who once made headlines, but who then disappeared into the English prison system. Keller’s most critical possession: his American passport. Keller’s most ardent desire: to see his ex-wife Sabine and their young son.
The exchange is made with the formality characteristic of these swaps. But Martin has other questions: who asked for him? Who negotiated the deal? The KGB? He has worked for the service long enough to know that nothing happens by chance. They want him for something. Not physics—his expertise is out of date. Something else, which he cannot learn until he arrives in East Berlin, when suddenly the game is afoot.
Filled with intriguing characters, atmospheric detail, and plenty of action Kanon’s latest espionage thriller is one you won’t soon forget.
Early in the cold war, it was almost impossible to go from East Germany to West Germany. A wall divided the country into four zones. People trying to get from the east to the west were often shot by the border guards. The thinking was that they were taking vital state secrets from the east to the west.
This story centers on a man who was going from the west to the east. He was a nuclear scientist who helped on the Manhattan Project. These people were closely monitored by their governments. The secrets of the atomic bomb were being taken to Russia to “help balance out the world powers.”
The protagonist fell in love with and married a woman in the east and had a son. His objective was to get his wife and son out of the eastern block and ultimately into the west, but being caught crossing the border could result in instant execution. The wife thought they could be happy living in East Germany. However, she is suffering from bad health and her husband wants to get her to hospitals in the west.
This novel reminded me of the era of the cold war and the tension felt by everyone on both sides of the Berlin wall. As a child in grammar school, I can remember being taught how to “duck and cover.” Knowing now the power of the atomic bombs realize this exercise was absolutely worthless.
Read the book and observe the arguments between the characters as they discuss the problems with getting the family across the border. It should be enlightening for those who did not live through the era! 4.0 – CE Williams
We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions. Released on 2-22-22
Rosepoint Publishing: Four Stars
Genre: Historical Thrillers, Espionage Thrillers
Print Length: 316 pages
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link(s): The Berlin Exchange [Amazon]
Barnes and Noble
The Author: Joseph Kanon is the Edgar Award–winning author of Leaving Berlin, Istanbul Passage, Los Alamos, The Prodigal Spy, Alibi, Stardust, and The Good German, which was made into a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. He lives in New York City.
©2022 V Williams