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Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Coulter’s treasured FBI agents take on two cases marked by danger and personal involvement.

Dillon Savitch and his wife, Lacey Sherlock, have special abilities that have served them well in law enforcement (Paradox, 2018, etc.). But that doesn't prevent Sherlock’s car from hitting a running man after having been struck by a speeding SUV that runs a red light. The runner, though clearly injured, continues on his way and disappears. Not so the SUV driver, a security engineer for the Bexholt Group, which has ties to government agencies. Sherlock’s own concussion causes memory loss so severe that she doesn’t recognize Savitch or remember their son, Sean. The whole incident seems more suspicious when a blood test from the splatter of the man Sherlock hit reveals that he’s Justice Cummings, an analyst for the CIA. The agency’s refusal to cooperate makes Savitch certain that Bexholt is involved in a deep-laid plot. Meanwhile, Special Agent Griffin Hammersmith is visiting friends who run a cafe in the touristy Virginia town of Gaffers Ridge. Hammersmith, who has psychic abilities, is taken aback when he hears in his mind a woman’s cry for help. Reporter Carson DeSilva, who came to the area to interview a Nobel Prize winner, also has psychic abilities, and she overhears the thoughts of Rafer Bodine, a young man who has apparently kidnapped and possibly murdered three teenage girls. Unluckily, she blurts out her thoughts, and she’s snatched and tied up in a cellar by Bodine. Bodine may be a killer, but he’s also the nephew of the sheriff and the son of the local bigwig. So the sheriff arrests Hammersmith and refuses to accept his FBI credentials. Bodine's mother has psychic powers strong enough to kill, but she meets her match in Hammersmith, DeSilva, Savitch, and Sherlock.

Greed, love, and extrasensory abilities combine in two middling mysteries.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9365-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A well-crafted spy novel examines the perils of espionage’s foundation in personal relationships.

The intriguing story of a young woman’s espionage career during World War II weaves in a critique of the British class system.

What sort of people got recruited to be spies by Britain’s famed MI5 intelligence agency during World War II? This absorbing historical novel makes clear they weren’t much like James Bond. Evelyn Varley is a restless young woman living in London in 1939, working for a cosmetics company and making no use at all of her Oxford degree in German, when she’s invited for a rather mysterious job interview. She rapidly goes from typing up reports to infiltrating a group of Nazi sympathizers—and discovering a disturbing personal connection. Starford takes an interesting tack with Evelyn’s background. The daughter of a clerk and a homemaker, she attended a posh boarding school as a scholarship girl, which meant she would either suffer bullies or remake herself in the images of the upper-class girls who harassed her. She chose the latter and did it so well she got into Oxford and became a sort of second daughter to the family of her best friend, Sally—a family that’s one of the wealthiest in England. When Evelyn goes to work for MI5, she discovers others who, like her, are outsiders in the rigid British class system but have found ways to assimilate by assuming an identity, an essential part of spycraft. As the war looms, the challenge for Evelyn is assimilating with people she finds abhorrent. Most of the novel is set in the years just before and after Britain’s entry into the war. Occasional chapters flash-forward to 1948, when Evelyn is trying to put her life back together after some unnamed catastrophe and tentatively falling in love. The book is rich with historical details, right down to clothing styles and furnishings. The plot sometimes slows amid those details, but most of the book is well paced. The novel’s depiction of Evelyn’s career is exciting, but it also suggests the human cost: No matter how skilled her performances, to those above her in the social hierarchy, she’s expendable.

A well-crafted spy novel examines the perils of espionage’s foundation in personal relationships.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303788-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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