cover image Pavel & I

Pavel & I

Dan Vyleta, . . Bloomsbury, $24.95 (344pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-451-3

Set during the frigid Berlin winter of 1946, Vyleta's wily debut follows the exploits of an American GI, a German street urchin and an enigmatic prostitute as they struggle to survive both the cold and the looming Cold War. Pavel Richter, an American soldier who remained in Berlin after the war, is shocked when his friend Boyd White shows up at his door with a dead German midget. After agreeing to help Boyd hide the body, Pavel and his friend Anders are thrust into the middle of a conspiracy that runs deeper than they could ever imagine. Boyd soon turns up dead, and Pavel and Anders discover that the midget, Söldmann, was a spy for the occupying Russians and was set to deliver a mysterious package on the night of his death. Boyd's and Söldmann's deaths arouse the interest of Pavel's upstairs neighbors, the nefarious British Colonel Fosko and his prostitute companion, Sonia, who join the Russians and Germans in the hunt for Söldmann's lost loot, and Pavel finds himself falling in love with Sonia. Despite an overabundance of minor characters and a conclusion that isn't exactly surprising, Vyleta conjures a convincing postwar Berlin in all of its moral ambiguity. (Feb.)