cover image The Berlin Exchange

The Berlin Exchange

Joseph Kanon. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5865-1

American physicist Martin Keller, the protagonist of this tense spy thriller from Kanon (The Accomplice), was one of the scientists entrusted with the secrets of the Manhattan Project, but he later betrayed that trust by sharing top-secret plans and drawings he memorized with East German intelligence. Keller continued his spying at Harwell, England’s analogue to Los Alamos, until he was found out and imprisoned in 1953. Out of the blue in 1963, Keller’s freed in Berlin as part of a British–East German spy swap, but a gunman almost takes him out at Checkpoint Charlie. Once safe in East Berlin, he reunites with his ex-wife, Sabine, and their 11-year-old son, but he’s dismayed to learn Sabine has a terminal illness. Meanwhile, Keller wonders why he was set free and why an assassin tried to kill him. Kanon balances a convincing portrayal of spycraft with fleshed-out characters, while vividly depicting the impact of secret lives on the loved ones of those engaged in espionage. Fans of Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson series will be pleased. Agent: Binky Urban, ICM Partners. (Feb.)