Berlin. 1963. The height of the Cold War. An early morning spy swap, not at Glienecke Bridge, the familiar setting for such exchanges, or at Checkpoint Charlie, where international visitors cross into the East, but at a more discreet border crossing, usually reserved for East German VIPs, next to the Charite hospital complex. The Communists are trading two American students caught helping people to escape over the wall and a lower level CIA operative. Not the stuff of headlines and, as planned, no journalists are here to write them. On the other side of the trade: Martin Keller,an American physicist who once indeed made headlines, but who then disappeared into the English prison system. Keller's most critical possession: his American passport. Keller's most ardent desire: to see his ex-wife Sabine and their young son.
The exchange is made with the formality characteristic of these swaps—equal paces to the concrete barrier, etc.—with each side sizing up the relative value of the other. Three for one? Small fry for a nuclear spy? But Martin has other questions: who asked for him? who negotiated the deal? Just the KGB bringing home one of its agents? Or, as he hopes, a more personal intervention? He has worked for the service long enough to know that nothing happens by chance. They want him for something. Not physics—his expertise is years out of date. Something else, which he cannot learn until he arrives in East Berlin, when suddenly the game is afoot.
Joseph Kanon is the Edgar Award–winning author of The Accomplice, Defectors, Leaving Berlin, Istanbul Passage, Los Alamos, The Prodigal Spy, Alibi, Stardust, and The Good German, which was made into a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. He lives in New York City.
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