In the depths of the Cold War a Soviet defector comes to the CIA with a story no one wants to hear. In a dreary apartment outside Moscow a secret videotape captures a man and woman making frantic love that climaxes in a murder. In the woods outside a New York City suburb an NYPD detective looks at the nude, mutilated body of a man whose violent death will lead the cop into an underground world of forbidden sexuality and international espionage....
In the depths of the Cold War a Soviet defector comes to the CIA with a story no one wants to hear. In a dreary apartment outside Moscow a secret videotape captures a man and woman making frantic love that climaxes in a murder. In the woods outside a New York City suburb an NYPD detective looks at the nude, mutilated body of a man whose violent death will lead the cop into an underground world of forbidden sexuality and international espionage.
In this powerful debut novel Michael Walsh delivers an unparalleled jolt of dark, scintillating suspense that blends John Le Carre with James Ellroy. A murder mystery, a tangled espionage thriller, and a grown-up novel of desire and jealousy, EXCHANGE ALLEY is a tale of truths conceived in sin and exposed in blood.
Lt. Francis X. Byrne, a smart ambitious homicide detective on the rise, lives in a rundown Hell's Kitchen apartment and knows far less about his own life than he believes. Struggling with his temper, his drinking and his relationship with a woman who has him outclassed, Byrne is trying to solve the gruesome slaying of a Danish diplomat- and following the trail of Egil Ekdhal's short life into a world where beautiful people play the most dangerous of games.
As Byrne gets closer to Ekdahl's true identity he collides with the one man he loathes more than any other human being: his own FBI agent brother. Tom Byrne has broken every rule in pursuit of a spy's Holy Grail: the KGB's top secret file on Lee Harvey Oswald. It's a dossier that the FBI, the CIA and even the Mafia desperately want-- a file stained by blackmail, intimidation and suicide.
From the decadence of modern-day New York City to the twilight days if Soviet Communism, and stretching back to the hell of the Nazi death camps, EXCHANGE ALLEY pits a tough but-all-too human cop against a conspiracy of evil that is beyond his comprehension. Relentless and frighteningly realistic, this is a novel that captures the rage of history's fires and the darkness they have left behind.
“Gritty and gripping… EXCHANGE ALLEY delives the darkness and synthetic sheen of contemporary urban life… a fascinating read.” -- Wendy Wasserstein, playwright of The Heidi Chronicles
“Extraordinary and entertaining… Dark, ominous, and tragic, this violent, vivid glimpse into the underworlds of New York and Moscow grips the reader and never lets go.” -- Tim Rice, co-writer of Evita
“Michael Walsh lurches the reader through the labyrinths of several underworlds, riveted by his whiplash style, confident that he will be there at the final “No Exit” with his natural novelist’s scalpel to reveal his characters, amazingly. Hang on!” – Gail Sheehy, author of New Passages
“Without pity or indulgence, Michael Walsh summons up the bent world of sexual and political corruption. The people in this arena are neither fragrant nor wise, but in Walsh’s hands they are impossible to ignore. Enter EXCHANGE ALLEY and you will not be able to extricate yourself until the last paragraph.” – Stefan Kanfer, author of Tough Without a Gun and contributing editor to City Journal
“A darkly ingenious, disturbing story, told with ruthless energy, scathing moral impartiality, and bitter omniscience. Michael Walsh, a fine music critic, is at the start of a brilliant new career.” – Lance Morrow, author of Evil: An Investigation
“A classy thriller… intelligent…multi-layered, gritty.” – USA Today
NB: Cover design of this digital edition was created by Ilana Esquenzi
(Starred review) JFK assassination buffs will enjoy bushwhacking their way through this labyrinthine debut... The final 100 pages of this book offer a series of explosive surprises, from the identity of Ekdahl’s killer to the truth about Byrne’s own heritage. There isn’t much Walsh doesn’t know about the JFK assassination and the background research for this virtuoso novel feels thorough... Walsh orchestrates a gripping tale of horrors.
Former Book Editor for Time Magazine
- Stephan Kanfer
Without pity or indulgence, Michael Walsh summons up the bent world of sexual and political corruption. The people in this arena are neither fragrant or wise, but in Walsh's hands they are impossible to ignore. Enter EXCHANGE ALLEY and you will not be able to extricate yourself until the last paragraph.
Author, New Passages
- Gail Sheehy
Michael Walsh lurches the reader through the labyrinths of several underworlds, riveted by his whiplash style, confident that he will be there at the final "No Exit" with his natural novelist's scalpel to reveal his characters, amazingly. Hang on!
Densely plotted New York tough-cop procedural that incongruously mixes gruesome walks on the wild side with KGB-CIA intrigue. Beginning initially inside a secret CIA dungeon, this first novel... quickly cuts to the discovery of a naked, bullet-ridden, castrated male corpse. Crisply written and thoroughly preposterous mean-streeter. An afterword implies a factual basis to some of the author's fictive imaginings.
Playwright, An American Daughter
- Wendy Wasserstein
Gritty and gripping...EXCHANGE ALLEY delves the darkness and synthetic sheen of contemporary urban life...a fascinating read.
Walsh's plot is baroque even by thriller standards; his prose is sometimes overwrought; and the sleazy sex will turn off some readers. Still, the Who killed JFK? question still haunts many Americans, and Walsh's don't-trust-anybody cynicism always finds an audience.
Susan A. Zappia
Time editor and respected journalist Walsh debuts with an uneven international thriller starring New York cop Francis X. Byrne, Lee Harvey Oswald, a host of Mafia dons, and plenty of Eurotrash. This novel is raunchy and occasionally rough going, but Byrne is an engaging protagonist, and Walsh shows promise.
Michael Walsh spent 25 years in journalism, including eight as a foreign correspondent for Time magazine based in Munich, Germany, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, where he got to know agents of the Stasi (East German secret police), the KGB, and the CIA. In addition, his Munich circle included retired agents of the OSS, the early CIA and the Gehlen network, as well as their American spymasters. Currently, his contacts include current and recently retired intelligence officers with the CIA and the Pentagon.
His debut novel, Éxchange Alley was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection upon its publication in 1997. It was followed, at the request of Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing) and Warner Bros. Studios, by As Time Goes By, the sequel to the movie Casablanca, which has been translated into 22 languages. His third novel, And All the Saints, was a winner of the 2004 American Book Award for fiction. He has also published five works of non-fiction, and co-wrote the screenplay to the 2002 hit Disney Channel Original Movie, Cadet Kelly
Walsh's espionage thriller Hostile Intent, featuring the character of "Devlin," a top-secret operative of the Central Security Service, was published in September 2009 by Pinnacle. It reached No. 1 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list upon its release, and twice appeared on the New York Times's extended bestseller list in October of that year. A sequel, Early Warning, was published in September 2010.
In February 2007, Walsh started writing for National Review using a fictional persona named "David Kahane." In September 2010 Ballantine Books published David Kahane’s Rules for Radical Conservatives, which Ann Coulter called, “A manual for the counterrevolution.”
In January, 2010, in collaboration with Andrew Breitbart, he launched BigJournalism.com, devoted to media commentary and criticism.
Walsh is writing the next installment in the “Devlin” series and is a regular contributor to the National Review and the New York Post’s opinion pages.