An immersive, dramatic, and historically edifying work.

THE SPY IN MOSCOW STATION

A National Security Agency engineer attempts to uncover a leak in the American Embassy in Moscow in this real-life Cold War thriller.

In 1978, Gus Hathaway, the CIA chief of station at the U.S. Embassy in the Soviet capital, made an unconventional decision that was unlikely to win him either friends or approval: He asked another intelligence agency, the National Security Agency, for help. The stakes for Hathaway, though, were immeasurably high—the KGB was discovering and executing American assets, and he suspected a leak somewhere within the Moscow embassy. It was a reasonable hypothesis, as the “KGB bugging of the embassy was an accepted fact of life.” Also, he knew that the KGB transmitted microwaves into the most information-sensitive areas of the building, although the CIA couldn’t figure out why. To make matters worse, American operatives discovered that a chimney shaft, from which one could sometimes hear “mysterious scraping noises,” wasn’t connected to any actual fireplaces; it was likely a KGB listening post of some kind. Hathaway recruited the help of Charles Gandy, an engineer at the NSA who’d risen to the highest levels of civilian authority and was a ranking member of R9, a group considered the “most prestigious and glamorous at NSA.” Haseltine (Brain Safari, 2018, etc.), with all the painstaking scrupulousness of an investigative journalist, details Gandy’s remarkable efforts to produce a “smoking gun” that could prove the Soviets were spying on the embassy—evidence that could justify a complex countermission that he himself had designed. Haseltine is a former director of research for the NSA—his boss there, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, contributes a foreword—and his expertise is beyond reproach. His research here is breathtaking, drawing on a bevy of sources, including his own interviews with Gandy as well as declassified U.S. governmental documents, often reproduced here at great length. In fact, his thoroughness can be a bit overwhelming at times; readers will often find themselves buried under mounds of minute detail, much of it forbiddingly technical. Even so, the story as a whole has all the power and intrigue of a cinematic thriller. In one memorable scene, for instance, Gandy was visited in his working quarters at the embassy by a “KGB honey trap,” a beautiful woman who attempted to gain access to his room; no one could figure out how she—and her male escort—managed to make it past embassy guards. The story isn’t only about the contest between Americans and Russians, but also about the turf-war rivalry of the CIA and the NSA. One declassified CIA memorandum, in shockingly explicit terms, notes the “NSA’s new feeling of importance” and its “ceaseless effort to assert itself more vigorously in the intelligence process.” Gandy, in particular, emerges as a captivatingly complicated figure—endlessly motivated to defeat his adversaries but also impressed by their ingenuity. The book ends with provocative reflections on what Americans can learn from the Russians about espionage today and on interagency cooperation.

An immersive, dramatic, and historically edifying work.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30116-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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