ATRIA BOOKS/Simon & Schuster, $27.00, 290 pages, ISBN 978-1-5011-2139-5
In light of all the nic-nac paddy-whacking that’s been going on for weeks . . . or is it months . . . or, OMG . . . years now about Russia and who did what to whom, and the when, where, why and how until we’re all sick to death of hearing about it, the MBR thought a change of perspective was in order. So, we’re going back some six decades to the year 1960. It was the height of the Cold War, when American foreign policy was engrossed in preventing the spread of communism, and the US and USSR battled each other at every opportunity short of actual combat. It was when we had the arms race, the space race and spy versus spy as the two colossal governments competed for world domination while all of us little folks waited around for the nuclear bombs to start falling.
Defectors, by Edgar Award winning author Joseph Kanon, is the story of two brothers named Weeks. Frank, the older one, was a rising star in the newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency until he was exposed as a communist spy, defected behind the Iron Curtain in 1949 and disappeared in the Soviet Union. Now, twelve years later, he’s written his KGB approved memoirs, which he thinks are sure to be a world-wide best-seller, and invited his younger brother Simon, a respected New York publisher, to come to Moscow to edit and review the manuscript. Simon’s company will then publish the finished book. Simon, who hasn’t heard from Frank since his defection, goes to the Soviet Union with many misgivings. He longs to see his older sibling and wants the profits that the book is certain to gather, but worries that it will be full of lies, half-truths and propaganda. Appearing to condone Frank’s behavior is anathema to Simon. He’s a loyal citizen of the United States of America and a book like that would reflect badly on the integrity of his publishing company, making it seem to be like an apologist for the Soviet Union. At first, Frank is charming and social, eager for news of family, friends and the agency he turned his back on . . . whose secrets he stole and delivered to our enemies. But then, Frank gets duplicitous, an officer of “The Service,” as he refers to the KGB, and tries to enlist Simon in a scheme that leaves him torn between family and country, at odds between the CIA and the KGB . . . and both of them in danger of losing their lives. Defectors is a thought-provoking, timely, well-researched and enlightening novel that compares well to our modern conflicted world. It’s utterly fascinating too!