Following the reunification of Germany, the KGB recruits an operative to retrieve stolen bearer bonds crucial to Russia’s Canadian presence in this debut novel.
Kubiak’s tale combines international intrigue, the Mafia, the rise of Vladimir Putin, and existential musings on the meaning of life. After a young Romani tells Thomas Miller, “Death is all around you,” the German national receives his KGB assignment with a warning that echoes those words: “Expect trouble.” Miller, a hit man, secret agent, and deeply troubled soul, meticulously covers his tracks, ultimately arriving at a remote cabin in the Canadian woods fully armed. The plot twists and turns: Does his mission involve a war between rival mob factions? Is there another party involved? One of the Mafia groups approaches Miller, claiming their interests coincide. But no one can be trusted. Miller’s own people murder his girlfriend back in Germany, ostensibly to give him more incentive but also adding another layer of mystery: Who knew about the hit? Though the agent is described as having no soul, he goes to church at one point and later to a shrine. In both instances he engages rather prophetic priests in extensive and searching philosophical discourses. Kubiak’s unusually constructed book bounces around in time and point of view. At times, it is intimately first person, delving deep into Miller’s psyche; at other moments, it holds readers at arm’s length (“The big Benz started moving as the man reached into the glove compartment, taking out a big Beretta automatic”). The style reinforces the already deep mystery, leaving readers unsure of exactly what is going on or what Miller or any of the other characters will do next. The ending holds even more surprises as minor players turn out to be vastly more important than first perceived. The author has put together a well-written, thought-provoking mystery with political and philosophical ramifications that bear on events in today’s headlines.
A complex political thriller for adventurous readers—and well worth the effort.