cover image Winter Work

Winter Work

Dan Fesperman. Knopf, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-32160-7

At the start of this superb spy thriller set in 1990 from Fesperman (The Cover Wife), Emil Grimm, who’s soon to be discharged from the foreign intelligence service of East Germany’s Ministry of State Security, is walking in the woods near his “dacha” north of Berlin when he comes across a crime scene. Investigators are prowling near a body, which Grimm helps identify as his fellow Stasi officer, Lothar Fischer, with whom he was working on a final operation after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The gun in Fischer’s hand suggests he died by suicide, but Grimm suspects otherwise. Meanwhile, CIA agent Claire Saylor (last seen in The Cover Wife) is in Berlin on a mission that leads her to cross paths with Grimm. Fesperman nicely works historical figures such as Markus Wolf, “the Stasi’s most renowned spymaster,” into the complex plot while painting an evocative portrait of East Berlin, “spying’s most storied theme park.” A surprisingly moving bond develops between Saylor and Grimm, who fears prosecution or worse after reunification, as the action builds to a deeply satisfying denouement. Cold War–era spy fiction doesn’t get much better than this. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary. (July)