Beaten, battered Berlin hides criminals and secrets from an American journalist looking for an old lover, her husband, one or two murderers, and answers. Lots of answers.
A-bomb development, Russians, and cuckoldry worked well for Kanon in his 1997 bestseller Los Alamos. He’s hacking away at that vein again, but now he's in ruined postwar Berlin where semifamous journalist Jake Geismar hopes to find Lena Brandt, his prewar mistress, as well as good stories for Collier’s magazine. The city Jake loved in its dreadful Nazi days is barely recognizable, with much of it leveled and the Russians laying waste to what’s left. Finagling his way into the Potsdam conference but excluded from actual dealings, the reporter spots a corpse bobbing in a nearby reach of the river and, upon pulling it out, finds the body to be that of the young soldier on Jake’s flight into Berlin, an edgy lad whose encounter with the barf bag may have had to do as much with nervousness as with the bumpy flight. Just as the body is whisked away by the authorities, Jake spots a bullet hole. The search for the assassin merges with the search for Lena, and then, once Lena is found, the search for Lena’s husband Emil, an apparently bloodless academic who became part of the war works and is now wanted for all the wrong reasons by both the Americans and their less and less chummy allies, the Russians. Jake’s reporting, difficult enough given the stone walls he’s running into, turns ugly and dangerous when spunky gal photographer Liz Yeager takes a bullet that may have been meant for Jake while they’re doing a little black-market shopping. Nasty Soviet General Sikorsky was on the scene. Did he direct the bullet? And the American officer who also took a bullet but whose life Geismar saved—was he part of the problem? Sorting it all out will involve an unpleasant congressman, a treacherous but tragic Jewish mother, some waifs, a cynical German ex-cop, and, off in the distance but not to be ignored, rocketeer and future Disney property Werner von Braun.