When was the last time you read a thriller with half a dozen major characters, all of whom you could believe in? John Marks pulls off this amazing trick in his first novel--and also manages to capture perfectly the heady mixture of hope and fear surrounding the collapse of the East German government in 1989. Captain Nester Cates, a 35-year-old African American intellectual and former radical who is now working for U.S. Army Intelligence is not the most popular man in West Berlin. Ridiculed by his military colleagues for his interest in obscure concepts such as democracy and German culture, Cates befriends another Army outcast named Stuart Glemnick--a complex, weak man with a shadowy past in the Middle East. Glemnick quickly gets Nester and several other key characters (including Glemnick's brother, a conflicted entomologist who sees everything in terms of bugs) into serious trouble by defecting to the East just a few hours before the Berlin Wall comes down. The cast also includes a wonderfully gutsy, naive young American journalist who stumbles into a career-making situation, and one of the scariest CIA spooks ever--Carlton Styles, who lost much of his face and mind to a terrorist bomber. Carlton is now convinced that the man who disfigured him is masquerading as the bug expert. Author Marks covered Eastern Europe for U.S. News & World Report
, and scenes like the attack on demonstrators in Prague vibrate with authenticity that could only come from firsthand experience with Iron Curtain culture. --Dick Adler
From Publishers Weekly
After half a century of Cold War thrillers, Marks achieves the ultimate ironic turn in his story of an American spy who defects to the East?just three hours before East Germans begin spontaneously crossing into West Berlin, bringing down the wall and the time-honored plot device at once. Marks explains Stuart Glemnik's act, its reasons and rippling effects by taking us on an elaborate tour of Central Europe in late 1989: Berlin, Rocken (Nietzsche's burial place), Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest. At the same time, Marks shifts among a half dozen linked characters: there's Stuart's best friend and fellow spy, half-German, half-African American Nester Cates, who tries to retrieve him; Stuart's German girlfriend Uta Silk, who defects with him but then turns back to the West; and Stuart's brother Douglas, a Dallas pest exterminator who comes to Berlin after losing his job and wife, and whose resemblance to the elusive terrorist Jeri Klek is the (somewhat iffy) wildcard in the tale. A former Berlin bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report, Marks handles his involved story line with assurance, avoiding the fictional travelogue mode endemic to journalists' narrative efforts and investing his story with a distinctive vision of history, borne out through plot, scene and dialogue. Though the plot sometimes creaks from a contrivance overload, Marks's success in conveying the deeper truths beneath the headlines results in an intelligent, memorable and thoroughly engaging debut.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.