The opening of this forgettable spy novel from Vidich (
The Mercenary) sets the heavy-handed tone: “Peril came early to the apartment on Bethaniendamm, overtaking the changes that were sweeping through the streets and alleys of a divided Cold War Berlin.” It’s 1989, and American Anne Simpson works as an interpreter at the Joint Allied Refugee Operations Center in West Berlin, debriefing refugees from Eastern Europe. She’s happily married to German piano tuner Stefan Koehler. Then a consular officer informs her Stefan is missing, his wallet found next to a canal. Simpson believed her husband had been in Vienna and Prague tuning orchestra pianos. Her alarm grows when she finds out West German intelligence suspects Stefan is working with the so-called Matchmaker, the head of East German counterintelligence, to provide confidential details about NATO deployments. As Anne tries to ascertain her spouse’s fate and the truth of the allegations against him, she learns secrets that change her view of the man she loves. The plot moves along predictable lines, and none of the characters makes much of an impression. Vidich has done better. Agent: Will Roberts, Gernert Company. (Feb.)
"The absorbing drama/mystery takes hold of your attention as Anne’s plight unfolds. The looming fall of the Berlin Wall intertwined with the fate of Anne and the spy she’s tasked with finding make for a riveting read."
The Manhattan Book Review - Philip Zozzaro
"Shades of Graham Greene, Eric Ambler and John le Carré hover over the pages of Paul Vidich’s
The Matchmaker, a Cold War thriller set in West and East Berlin in the eventful years of 1989 and ’90. The innovative Mr. Vidich subverts expectations in ways that surprise."
Wall Street Journal - Tom Nolan
The Matchmaker is an intelligent, atmospheric, richly written and quietly gripping spy novel. Vidich also deals sensitively with real moral issues around spying and there is a depth to his themes. In all, it is a very impressive achievement. It is still very early in the year, but I think that The Matchmaker will end up being one of the best spy novels of 2022."
Murder, Mayhem and Long Dogs - Jeff Popple
"Readers interested in more about the Stasi should look for Paul Vidich’s novel
The Matchmaker. Set in Berlin in the fall and winter of 1989–90, as the GDR was collapsing, the plot concerns a civilian interpreter for the US military, Anne Simpson, who learns her husband is a Stasi illegal. She becomes a pawn in the CIA’s effort to take down the mastermind of the operation. The Matchmaker is tightly written and carefully plotted. It grabs you in the first pages and never lets go.
"With a capable female protagonist, Vidich brings a modern sensibility to the complex machinations of the traditional spy novel."
Washington Post, 10 noteworthy books for February - Becky Meloan
A richly detailed work of investigative crime writing perfect for fans of procedurals and spy fiction alike.
"A stone cold, stone brilliant, Cold War spy thriller of the old school Scenes of Berlin street-life at the end of the punk era, the actual crumbling of the wall and the subsequent ransacking of personal files in the hastily-abandoned Stasi headquarters, are vividly painted in Vidich’s spare prose. He even gives us a grieving woman at a graveside and a musician who played the zither in a nod to
The Third Man, making The Matchmaker a book crying out to be filmed in black-and-white."
"Vidich is keen on recreating the atmosphere of a classic Cold War thriller which he does very well. Anne Simpson is a unique creation, providing a different perspective on the times from the usual. The feel of the novel is bolstered by iconic locations and events, evoking the use of the Cold War checkpoints for instance. This is a spy thriller that pays homage to the best of the genre, it’s full of the tropes and twists of a conventional spy thriller, but has an originality and modern sensibilities. One aspect of
The Matchmaker is the way Vidich intertwines the fiction with the political change and historical events of a pivotal moment in history. Ambitious and satisfying, this novel handles complexity with clarity and style."
"Paul Vidich has staked himself a claim as one of the foremost espionage novelists working today, and he’s back this year with The Mercenary, an insightful and thought-provoking story about the attempted exfiltration of a KGB man from 1980s Moscow. In short, this promises to be one of the year’s premier spy novels."
"The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021" CrimeReads
Praise for Paul Vidich’s The Mercenary:
Justly praised by his peers, Vidich is an espionage novelist who deserves to be more widely known. His noir cold war spy stories are laced with echoes of Graham Green and Eric Ambler. A finely written, taut novel.
"This tense and humane Cold War spy thriller will keep readers in suspense right up to the climactic border crossing."
"Evoking without imitating classic le Carré. Vidich supplements the world-weariness we expect from cold warriors in the game too long by giving Garin a satisfyingly contrarian 'contempt for Agency puppetteers.'"
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.
"The strength of the book is the recounting of historical events, many now forgotten or having occurred in another generation. Vidich vividly describes protests in the street and the suspenseful hours as East Berliners learn the order had been given to open the border. But the novel also raises questions such as what happened to the Stasi officials after the Wall came down in 1989. As noted in the book, practically nothing. And why not? History, it appears, is worth studying, for the lessons it delivers."
"With a great narrative and powerful plot twists, the story comes to life and all is slowly revealed by the final chapter. This surely lives up to the standards of Graham Greene and John le Carré, as denoted in the dust jacket blurb. Kudos, Mr. Vidich, for an entertaining read that left me reminiscing of the days of the Cold War."
Mystery and Suspense Magazine
"Vidich adds a welcome feminist twist to the familiar espionage theme of human lives trapped in the vice of competing and equally ruthless governments. From
An Honorable Man (2016) through The Mercenary (2021), Vidich has established his position in the forefront of contemporary espionage novelists."
"There is a casual elegance to Vidich’s spy fiction (now numbering five books), a seeming effortlessness that belies his superior craftsmanship. Every plot point, character motivation and turn of phrase veers toward the understated, but they are never underwritten.
The Matchmaker is an ideal entrance into Vidich’s work, one that should compel new readers to plumb his backlist."
The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Weinman