Joseph Kanon, who won an Edgar for Los Alamos, has written a noir thriller about an CBS radio reporter, the Potsdam Conference, and the corpse of a solitary American soldier. When government authorities move to cover-up the dead G.I., reporter Jake Geismar smells a story. Waiting in the wings are Russian and American plots and counterplots, one beautiful woman, and a story as stylish as it is exciting.
Again taking one of the 20th century's most momentous periods as a backdrop, Kanon recreates Berlin in the months following WWII in this lavishly atmospheric thriller overburdened with political and romantic intrigue. Though driven by strong characters and rich historical detail, the book ultimately falters under the weight of a ponderous, edgeless plot. At the center of the drama is Jake Geismar, a journalist who arrives in Berlin ostensibly to cover the Potsdam Conference. In reality, he's consumed with finding his prewar lover, Lena, with whom he carried on a torrid affair unbeknownst to her husband. Before he finds her, however, Geismar becomes intrigued by the murder of an American soldier whose body washes ashore near the conference grounds. The military's reluctance to investigate or provide any details of the murder convinces Geismar that this could be his big story. Though he's warned not to meddle, Geismar can't resist the story's draw. His investigation leads him deeply into Berlin's agonizing struggle for survival its black market, its collective guilt and its citizens' feeble attempts to wash themselves clean of wartime atrocities. And, most importantly, Geismar learns of the Allies' frantic attempts to round up Nazi scientists, including Lena's husband, Emil, whose expertise with missiles made Germany such a fierce enemy. Kanon (Los Alamos; The Prodigal Spy) is at his strongest when giving voice to the hard choices and moral dilemmas of the times, yet he labors at bringing his plot to a close and blurs its core in the process. While his descriptive skills have never been sharper the writing is uniformly elegant Kanon's third thriller since leaving his job as a publisingexecutive digs in when it should be attacking. BOMC featured selection; $150,000 marketing campaign; movie rights optioned by Warner Bros.; 12-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Set amidst the rubble of a just-vanquished Third Reich Berlin, this third thriller by the author of Los Alamos is made less than thrilling by weak plotting. Jake Geismar, a U.S. reporter assigned to cover the Potsdam Conference for Collier's magazine, stumbles upon a story that is intertwined with his own life. Though he has returned to Berlin primarily to reunite with his prewar lover, Geismar confronts a Germany he no longer recognizes. Further, he is compelled to solve the murder of an American soldier found with a money belt stuffed with black-market cash. The book's title is by turns ironic and laden with pathos. Unfortunately, the characters are stereotypes, in particular the Russians are we returning to the height of Cold War antagonism? Recommended only to meet demand, which may be considerable, given the book's heavy-duty marketing budget. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/01.] David Dodd, Marin Cty. Free Lib., San Rafael, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Beaten, battered Berlin hides criminals and secrets from an American journalist looking for an old lover, her husband, one or two murderers, and answers. Lots of answers. A-bomb development, Russians, and cuckoldry worked well for Kanon in his 1997 bestseller Los Alamos. He's hacking away at that vein again, but now he's in ruined postwar Berlin where semifamous journalist Jake Geismar hopes to find Lena Brandt, his prewar mistress, as well as good stories for Collier's magazine. The city Jake loved in its dreadful Nazi days is barely recognizable, with much of it leveled and the Russians laying waste to what's left. Finagling his way into the Potsdam conference but excluded from actual dealings, the reporter spots a corpse bobbing in a nearby reach of the river and, upon pulling it out, finds the body to be that of the young soldier on Jake's flight into Berlin, an edgy lad whose encounter with the barf bag may have had to do as much with nervousness as with the bumpy flight. Just as the body is whisked away by the authorities, Jake spots a bullet hole. The search for the assassin merges with the search for Lena, and then, once Lena is found, the search for Lena's husband Emil, an apparently bloodless academic who became part of the war works and is now wanted for all the wrong reasons by both the Americans and their less and less chummy allies, the Russians. Jake's reporting, difficult enough given the stone walls he's running into, turns ugly and dangerous when spunky gal photographer Liz Yeager takes a bullet that may have been meant for Jake while they're doing a little black-market shopping. Nasty Soviet General Sikorsky was on the scene. Did he direct the bullet? And the Americanofficer who also took a bullet but whose life Geismar saved-was he part of the problem? Sorting it all out will involve an unpleasant congressman, a treacherous but tragic Jewish mother, some waifs, a cynical German ex-cop, and, off in the distance but not to be ignored, rocketeer and future Disney property Werner von Braun. Bloated. Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection; $150,000 ad/promo; film rights to Warner Bros.; author tour
“[Kanon] is fast approaching the complexity and relevance not just of le Carré and Greene but even of Orwell: provocative, fully realized fiction that explores, as only fiction can, the reality of history as it is lived by individual men and women.” The New York Times Book Review
“As he did in Los Alamos, Kanon demonstrates an eerie mastery of the evocative historical detail....You can feel the shattered glass crunching beneath your feet as you read. You can smell the smoke-scorched broken bricks.... Kanon is as ambitious a novelist as he is a gifted one.” The Washington Post
“A terrific book...Kanon is the heir apparent to Graham Greene and early-and mid-passage le Carré, for he writes of moral quandaries that are real and not created to drive a plot....The multilayered story is beautifully told.” The Boston Globe
“Gripping...Kanon has written a tale about the untenable choices war entails, and about the moral dangers of demonization. For American readers, the book cuts to the bone, coming at a time when we have become the demonized and are doing our best to avoid becoming the demonizers.” Newsday