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British newcomer Millar turns in an alternative history of the Cold War. John Burke is a middle-aged journalist whose specialty is writing on that war. Newly divorced, he’s especially vulnerable when Sabine Kotschke, an attractive German journalist, enlists his aid to ferret out the mystery of Klaus Fuchs’s death. During wartime, Fuchs was the physicist who smuggled secrets to Russia, enabling the Soviets to build the bomb ten years sooner than they otherwise could have. Fuchs did not regard himself as a spy, but concluded (along with other physicists at Los Alamos) that the secret of the atom was too great a responsibility for any one power to handle. Regardless—as Millar shows in his scenes set in 1944—he was branded a spy, only to fall into obscurity again in East Germany. Was he murdered and, if so, for what secret? Burke and Kotschke trace the story from England to New Mexico to Russia. Someone’s chasing them, and several times they are nearly killed. Burke suspects that Kotschke is not what she seems, but his lust for her, which she toys with, dulls his judgment. He fancies he’s James Bond. Meanwhile, events rush ahead of his understanding, until he finds himself searching for a mysterious document called the “Sunshine Plan”—a provisional agreement between the Allies and the Third Reich intended to thwart Soviet ambitions to seize Berlin and stake their claims to postwar Europe. Fuchs, in short, was a red herring, and Burke is the dupe of East German intelligence, itself in competition with right-wing Soviet nationalists to shake up the West with the truth: namely, that the righteous Allies, in forming a pact with a nearly defeated Germany, were as opportunistic as Stalin himself when he made his pact with Hitler. A solid piece of work, less suspenseful than absorbing and intelligent.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-58234-016-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999


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