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A Gathering of Spies Hardcover – June 26, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (June 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399146415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399146411
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In his debut novel, A Gathering of Spies, John Altman delivers an old-fashioned page-turner, energetically told. Katarina Heinrich is a beautiful Nazi spy living in deep cover as the wife of a Princeton professor. When her husband is hired to help develop the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, Catherine, as she is known, uncovers the secret and resolves to carry it to Germany at all costs.

A Gathering of Spies fuses the plots of Katarina and a British double agent, Winterbotham, whose wife is incarcerated in a Polish prison camp. Winterbotham believes he will do anything to obtain her freedom. Does that include trading the Allies' greatest secrets? In an exciting role reversal, Katarina is the superhuman agent capable of storming a British stronghold and retrieving a high-ranking German prisoner. Winterbotham, by contrast, is cerebral and unknown even to himself. His secret plots are revealed subtly.

If there is a flaw in A Gathering of Spies, it is that Altman's plots get too intertwined. You might find yourself having to reread passages to get the buried implications. But Altman never commits the cardinal sin of obscuring important clues only to illuminate them in the last pages for the aha! conclusion. A Gathering of Spies represents titans like Einstein, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Hitler with casual confidence--there to remind us that the stakes of this mystery are nothing less than the fate of the world. --Kathi Inman Berens

From Publishers Weekly

This atmospheric debut thriller smells deliciously of Hitchcock and 1940s British spy films. Beautiful Catherine Danielson Carter is really Katarina Heinrich, a Nazi spy who has gone deep undercover, found work as a housekeeper in Princeton, N.J., and married her employer. As the wife of aging nuclear scientist Richard Carter, Katarina is able to get work at a federal shipbuilding plant. Her instincts are aroused when her husband is invited to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, N.M. Taking advantage of her situation, Katarina finds a letter from Albert Einstein that details the plans for the A-bomb. Galvanized into action, she murders her way to several new identities in her quest to get her information to London, where her former lover and fellow agent, Fritz Meissner, is stationed. Fritz has ostensibly been recruited by the British as a double agent working for Operation Double Cross, feeding misinformation to the Germans. The Americans discover Katarina's true identity and trail her to England, where they warn Andrew Taylor, head of MI5. He, in turn, recruits brilliant Prof. Harry Winterbotham to expose Fritz and aid in the search for Katarina. Winterbotham agrees to help, while hatching a secret plan to rescue his Jewish wife, who is trapped in Poland. In painting a perfect WWII British setting complete with quirky characters reeking of mutton and pipe tobacco, Altman belies his U.S. origins. But throw in Admiral Canaris's plot to assassinate Hitler, a double- or triple-cross in every chapter, covert Nazi submarines, a lighthouse and a plethora of bodies, and you get an irresistible page-turner from a welcome new voice in the genre. 75,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; foreign rights sold in Italy and the Netherlands. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book has it all - a fast paced plot, great characters, historical intrigue.
Anne Naftzinr
In particular, the ending seems a bit abrupt and depends on a slight deus ex machina to save a principal character (to avoid spoilers, I say no more on this).
mrliteral
If you like spies, complexity, and fast paced adventure you will read this novel and look forward to Altman's next book as I do.
Newt Gingrich

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By albert stark on July 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From the moment Katarina Heinrich, a German spy, kills Catherine Danielson and assumes her identity, I was caught in a web of thrills that kept me turning pages as Katarina, now Catherine, marries a Princeton professor, and moves to Los Alamos where she discovers AlbertEinstein's 'secret'letter toFranklin DelanoRoosevelt detailing a secret,the development of the A Bomb. Altman takes you through a plot of spy and counterspy which keeps you glued to the page. Will Katarina deliver her secret to the Germans? A subplot involving an English spy whose wife in interred in Dachau provides excitement while the reader learns if a man will do "anything" to get his wife out of a concentration camp. Hitler and his cohorts that run the Nazi machine come to life as real, manipulative and vulnerable. Reading A Gathering of Spies until six thirty in the morning was worth the loss of sleep.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "miked@rcn.com" on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was one of several books I got at Christmas, and it did not disappoint. As a fan of the genre, I think Altman is a welcome new addition. This spy book is definitely NOT the same old, same old. I couldn't put it down once I started it. Bravo!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By chuck m. on November 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book on a friend's recommendation and wasn't disappointed. It's full of intrigue, an old fashioned page turner! The antogonist, Katrina, is like a latter day Charlie's Angel, butworking for the bad guys. It would make a great movie.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
V.1353 is Katarina Heinrich, a German spy trained to be the best at infiltrating American society. Her job is to gather information to enable the Fatherland to win the upcoming war. In December 1933, Katarina kills Catherine Danielson and assumes the dead woman's identity. She moves to Princeton where she becomes a housekeeper for Richard Carter. Soon, Richard and "Catherine" marry. Katarina the spy becomes dormant. In 1942, her spouse obtains a top-secret job working on a weapon of mass destruction at Los Alamos.

Katarina kills someone else to use her identity to bring information on the project to Germany. Andrew Taylor recruits Harris Winterbotham to serve as a double agent, spying for the Germans. Harris knows the Germans have his wife incarcerated at the Dachau concentration camp and plans a triple cross to free his spouse. His actions lead him to a confrontation with the efficient and effective Katarina.

A GATHERING OF SPIES, John Altman's debut novel, is one of the year's best espionage thrillers. The action-packed tale dramatizes life in Germany, Britain, and the United States at the early part of World War II. The realistic characters include heroes and villains ordering innocent people to perform abominable tasks or else. Mr. Altman opens with a triumph that hopefully will be accompanied by more WW II spy stories.

Harriet Klausner
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Impressive hardly touches this first novel by author John Altman. The plot, characters, intrigue, and nonstop action, all set in World War II America and Europe combine to make this the best new novel I've read this summer. Don't miss it!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "dplesq" on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While at the Jersey Shore, I couldn't put this book down. I reccomend it highly to anyone who enjoys this genre. It's a promissing beginning for a new writer and I hope there's another to read by next summer!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm scared to death of flying... bought this in the airport at JFK and made it back home through an hour of turbulence without once looking up. Katrina makes La Femme Nikita look like the Avon lady, and the final showdown ROCKED. Altman might have restored my faith in spy novels.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 27, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a former spy myself--long since out from under cover with permission--this book jumped off the supermarket shelf at me, the title and the recommendations from Jack Higgins overcoming my general reluctance to read fiction.
The book is a five for a light tale told very smoothly, and a three for lacking any real knowledge of tradecraft and spying--hence a four average. It is nowhere near an "Enigma" or "The Unlikely Spy" or "The Black Tulip", my three favorites in this past decade, but for a first novel by someone with no field experience it is quite worthy and I will look forward to the next effort by this author.
This is an honest solid book, worth the price and the time.
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