cover image Red Traitor

Red Traitor

Owen Matthews. Doubleday, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54342-2

Told primarily from the Russian perspective, this gripping thriller from Matthews (Black Sun) focuses on the often overlooked role of Soviet submarines, all equipped with nuclear missiles, that were heading to Cuba in the days leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Like the other submarine commanders, Capt. Vasily Arkhipov received the go-ahead by the military to launch a nuke at the U.S. without Moscow’s approval if attacked. The order makes Arkhipov uneasy because he knows some other captains may have an itchy trigger finger. Meanwhile, back in Moscow, KGB Lt. Col. Alexander Vasin is so troubled by the leeway given to submarine captains that he’s trying to find a way to pass along word to American officials about the danger. Vasin attempts to persuade a colleague who’s a known American agent to tell his American contact about the Russian threat. Back in the Caribbean, the Russian submarines run low on power and are forced to surface and face a formidable American naval armada. An afterword reveals that Matthews, a journalist who has written widely on Russian affairs, drew closely on the historical record. Cold War buffs will particularly enjoy the ride, though any reader who appreciates the finer points of espionage and foreign intrigue will also be well satisfied. Agent: Toby Mundy, Toby Mundy Assoc. (July)