He runs to avoid prison and he just lands in a bigger one.
Joseph Kanon, author of best-sellers Istanbul Passage and Leaving Berlin, once again delivers the goods on a postwar historical thriller in his very latest novel Defectors now available in hardback. In 1949, Simon Weeks (and the rest of the world) were shocked to learn that Simon’s older brother, golden boy Frank, was a Russian spy. Frank and his wife, Jo, flee behind the Iron Curtain and disappear into oblivion. But 12 years later, Frank has written his memoirs and asks Simon (now a respected book publisher) to come to Moscow to be his editor. Despite divided feelings about everything, Simon can’t resist the chance to see his brother again after years of separation. Or maybe he can’t resist the chance to see Jo, with whom he had a brief romance prior to her meeting Frank, and is still not entirely over.
In Moscow, Simon’s introduced to the world of defectors, British and American agents who defected to the Soviets, and who one journalist likens to ghosts. They’ve given up everything for the Soviet Empire, but they’re never fully trusted in their new home. They’ve fled to avoid one prison into the arms of another prison, albeit one gilded with special KGB privileges.
The reader is enthralled by the surroundings and can practically feel the gray walls of Moscow closing in around them in a dreary atmosphere of endless gloom and paranoia. The cast of characters is just as vivid from Boris Frank’s doggedly loyal KGB handler, to Jo, now a sad, depressed alcoholic, to flirtatious widow Marzana, who is already scouting out her next meal ticket, her husband’s body barely cold.
True to the times of living with a secret police, everyone has a hidden agenda and no one can be trusted; maybe not even oneself. You might well need a chart to keep track of all the double crosses and triple crosses made by everyone playing their dirty little games of intrigue. The core of it all is Frank Weeks himself, an enigma wrapped in a puzzle engulfed in a Rubik’s Cube. A man who one comes to sense is motivated less by ideology or even self-interest than by the nature of espionage itself with its inherent deception and betrayal. He and Simon soon enter into a game of ten dimensional chess as both brothers seek to manipulate the situation; circling each other like a pair of cobras. And yet they ARE still brothers and blood as they say is blood. Kanon weaves a story filled with twists and turns and complications that keeps surprising right up until the final pages.