Spy vs. Spy
You can taste the rubble of 1949 Berlin in Joseph Kanon’s new novel. Along with the rubble there is intrigue, duplicity and the beginnings of the East German secret police, the Stasi. Alex Meier, Kanon’s protagonist, is a Jewish writer formerly of Berlin and most recently of Hollywood who has returned to his home city to spy for the CIA after suffering the wrath of Congress’ investigations of the role of Communists in Hollywood. Simply put he made a deal to return and as someone who was denounced by Congress, he has the perfect cover.
Along the way we meet several Berlin returnees who still believe that the path to a better world is through communism and the wisdom of the Party in playing traffic director. They will soon be subject to a purge that was far worse than the contempt citations handed out by the Congress of the 1940s. There are more than a few cameo appearances of Bertolt Brecht and a scene in the novel involves the opening of his play, “Mother Courage.” Of course it would not be a spy novel without the Adlon Hotel and as you would have it Meier hooks up with his prewar love interest, who is, to say the least, active in the spy business.
All told “Leaving Berlin” is a terrific spy novel in the tradition of Alan Furst and John le Carre. We might just get a sequel.
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