THE PRODIGAL SPY by Joseph Kanon


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Edgar Award—winning Kanon (Los Alamos, 1997) returns with a Cold War spy tale. Opening with a chilling re-creation of the Red Scare days of the early 1950s, the story soon leads to the questioning of one Walter Kotlar by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kotlar, as the reader knows instinctively, can—t be a spy—but when a woman scheduled to testify before the committee is murdered, Kotlar enigmatically flees the country overnight, leaving behind his wife and confused young son, Nick. Not long after, he turns up on newsreels from Moscow as nothing less than a prize defector. Twenty years pass, until Nick is an embittered, restless Vietnam vet during the time of the Paris peace negotiations. His father’s old boss, who married Nick’s mother and adopted Nick, is one of the negotiators. This man meets Nick in England to settle some money on him, and almost simultaneously, mystery woman Molly Chisholm contacts Nick to tell him that his real father is living in Czechoslovakia, sick and desperate to see his son before he dies. But only Nick is exactly what he seems to be: Molly’s actually a relative of the murdered woman from long ago; Walter Kotlar is indeed dying, but wants to return to the US to reveal what happened to cause his defection; and even Nick’s stepfather may be a double-agent. Dodging spies and FBI agents on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Nick gradually assumes his father’s mission, rooting out Reds and murderers at the highest levels of government. Even J. Edgar Hoover puts in an appearance. John le CarrÇ and Graham Greene come to mind as the standard- bearers, though Kanon lacks the latter’s high style and pitiless worldview. This time around, too, the love story that so distinguished Los Alamos seems contrived. Still, Kanon is very good. ($200,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7679-0142-8
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998


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