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LOS ALAMOS by Joseph Kanon

LOS ALAMOS

By Joseph Kanon

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-06224-7
Publisher: Broadway

 From the former head of Houghton Mifflin's trade division, a first thriller set at Los Alamos during the later stages of the building of the atomic bomb. The war is winding down in Europe, and President Roosevelt has died. The Army calls a civilian intelligence officer, Michael Connolly, to New Mexico to investigate the death of Karl Bruner, a Manhattan Project security officer. The Army is unsure whether Bruner's death is connected to the Project or merely incidental. If there are security implications, though, they must be identified and dealt with quickly. Meanwhile, the local police want to put a lid on the case, and they connect it to a similar murder in Albuquerque for which they have a suspect. Bruner was homosexual, they say, and died because he picked up the wrong man. But as Michael interviews Bruner's co-workers and looks into the financial affairs of the secretive post, where famous physicists such as Robert Oppenheimer are furiously working, he begins to piece together a shadowy tale of espionage. Is there a German agent among all the German expatriates? Are the Russians involved? Kanon plays out his mystery far into the novel, mixing in a love affair between Michael and an Englishwoman, Emma Pawlowski, who is married to one of the physicists. Oppenheimer, who appears at several crucial points in the narrative, remains an enigma. And Emma, who at first seems straightforward and charming, grows more and more complicated, so that Michael's affair with her may be, he suspects, compromising in more ways than one. Better than the mystery, however, or certainly enriching it, is Kanon's feel for the wartime milieu: the effects of rationing on daily life, the way people talked, the patriotism that was accepted as a matter of course. Finally, Kanon clearly loves the desert, and Michael and Emma's adventures there seem genuinely romantic. An unusually promising debut. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour)