- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition / First Printing edition (June 6, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501121391
- ISBN-13: 978-1501121395
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 100 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Defectors: A Novel Hardcover – June 6, 2017
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PRAISE FOR DEFECTORS:
“Kanon [is] an intelligent writer who produces satisfyingly plotted novels that appeal to readers with brains.” (Philip Kerr The New York Times Book Review)
“With his remarkable emotional precision and mastery of tone, Kanon transcends the form. In its subtly romanticized treatment of compromised lives, this book is even better than his terrific previous effort, Leaving Berlin (2015). A blend of Spy vs. Spy and sibling vs. sibling (not since le Carré's A Perfect Spy has there been a family of spooks to rival this one), Kanon reaffirms his status as one of the very best writers in the genre.” (Kirkus (starred review))
"A finely paced Cold War thriller with [Kanon's] usual flair for atmospheric detail, intriguing characters, and suspensful action...Fans of intelligent suspense wil enjoy trying to figure out whom is deceiving whom." (Library Journal)
“Fascinating . . . [Kanon] is a master of the genre. . . [The] roller-coaster plot will keep you guessing until the final page.” (The Washington Post)
"Joseph Kanon continues to demonstrate that he is up there with the very best...of spy thriller writers...Kanon writes beautifully, superbly...he is the master of the shadows of the era." (The Times)
"The critical stock of Joseph Kanon is high, and Defectors will add further lustre to his reputation...There are pleasing echoes here of the “entertainments” of Graham Greene." (The Guardian)
PRAISE FOR LEAVING BERLIN:
“Engaging. . . . deftly captures the ambience of a city that’s still a wasteland almost four years after the Nazis’ defeat. . . . Kanon keeps the story humming along, enriching the main narrative with vignettes that heighten the atmosphere of duplicity and distrust.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“Joseph Kanon’s thought-provoking, pulse-pounding historical espionage thriller [is] stuffed with incident and surprise. . . . Mr. Kanon, author now of seven top-notch novels of period political intrigue, conveys the bleak, oppressive, and creepy atmosphere of occupied Berlin in a detailed, impressive manner. . . . Leaving Berlin is a mix of tense action sequences, sepia-tinged reminiscence, convincing discourse and Berliner wit.” (Wall Street Journal)
“The old-fashioned spy craft, the many plot twists and the moral ambiguities that exist in all of the characters make Leaving Berlin an intriguing, page-turning thriller.There’s also a star-crossed love story — and an airport farewell — that might remind some readers of Bogie and Bergman. But it’s the author’s attention to historical detail — his ability to convey the sights, sounds and feel of a beaten-down Berlin — that makes this book so compelling.” (Ft. Worth Star Telegram)
"Kanon, who writes his novels at the New York Public Library, conjures from there a Berlin of authentic menace and such hairpin turns that Leaving Berlin evokes comparisons to John LeCarre and Alan Furst. Such good company." (New York Daily News)
“Not for nothing has Kanon – whose previous books include The Good German, which was made into a film starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, has been compared to the suspense masters Graham Greene and John LeCarre. He’s certainly in the ballpark.” (Buffalo News)
“A pleasure from start to finish, blending literary finesse with action, this atmospheric historical thriller will appeal not only to Kanon’s many fans but to those who enjoy Alan Furst, Philip Kerr, and other masters of wartime and postwar espionage fiction.” (Library Journal (starred))
“Another compelling, intellectually charged period piece by Kanon, who works in the shadows of fear as well as anyone now writing.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Kanon, like Alan Furst, has found a landscape and made it his own. In fact, the two writers make outstanding bookends in any collection of WWII fiction, Furst bringing Paris just before and during the war to vivid life, and Kanon doing the same for Berlin in its aftermath.” (Booklist)
“Story, suspense, substance, and style are inextricably linked in a work that masterfully exploits and exquisitely transcends spy-genre possibilities.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)
About the Author
Joseph Kanon is the Edgar Award–winning author of Leaving Berlin, Istanbul Passage, Los Alamos, The Prodigal Spy, Alibi, Stardust, and The Good German, which was made into a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. He lives in New York City.
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Top customer reviews
TD takes place mostly in Moscow in 1961. Frank Weeks and his wife Jo have been living there since 1949 when he was uncovered as a spy. Now he has written a book about his life and has arranged for his book publishing younger brother, Simon, to visit him and collaborate on the final stages of the manuscript. Simon was also in the spy business and is a former lover of Joe. Frank and Jo have a comfortable living arrangement in Moscow and Frank has a respected position in the Service. But all is not as it appears and gradually Simon is sucked into a plot that Frank reveals only gradually - and it keeps shifting.
There are several things I disliked about the book. First, the story moves along at a snail's pace. The reader knows that it will be all about the climax, there will be a big twist or two, someone will likely shoot someone else. Who will survive? Who will not? Lots of dialogue but it didn't really create any tension for me nor did it reveal for me as much about the brothers as I would have liked. Lengthy passages were boring.
Secondly, the climax reminded me of a mix of Who's on First and a car chase with multiple cars and multiple passengers, ala a Pink Panther movie. Who's in what car? Where are they going? As the ending of the book approached, there were a dozen different possible climaxes, none more obvious nor surprising than another.
Thirdly I know a smidge of history about turncoat spies living in Russia. Everything I have read about them is that they get provided for - a roof over their heads, enough to eat, drink. I haven't heard of such criminals being welcomed into Russian intelligence services in any meaningful way nor honored for their post-exile contributions. It's just a few weeks of photos in the newspapers, medal presentations, smiles. Then they seem to disappear. Booze seems to play a big role in the latter years. Not so with Frank, he has influence and power - and I didn't believe it. Finally, the big question in stories such as TD is.....why? Why did they betray their birth country? Any fresh insights in TD? Not for me.
Now, with “Defectors,” he’s become a successor candidate to John le Carré.
That candidacy starts with a plot that’s elegant. Consider this: Frank Weeks was a star in the early days of the CIA. No one knew he was a Communist, funneling secrets to the Russians, until he turned up in Moscow. “The man who betrayed a generation” also betrayed his brother Simon, who had to leave his government job and take up a new profession: book publishing. Now it’s 1961. Frank has written his memoirs. Simon is his publisher. He flies to Moscow to finish the editing with the brother he hasn’t seen in 12 years.
This isn’t a book with a climax that’s about a dispute over the Oxford comma. It’s an espionage thriller — things are never what they seem. As Simon realizes, “Every meal a performance. Saying one thing, knowing another. Something no one knew.” What does Frank know that Simon doesn’t? Even if you guess, that’s just the first right answer. I’ll spare you the spoilers that follow.
The concision of language — clipped, efficient, quasi-literary — is the second glory of “Defectors.” Over 290 pages, that kind of writing could become shtick. It doesn’t, because Kanon is deft with information-sharing. Here’s Frank, explaining himself in a way that gives you more than an explanation: “It’s a funny word, defector. Latin, defectus. Makes it sound as if we had to leave something behind. To change sides. But we were already on this side. We weren’t leaving anything.”
The third — and trickiest — test of a spy thriller is the relationships, especially how the men feel about women. Most of the thrillers I encounter use women as dupes or seductresses; the characterizations are primitive. Kanon writes real fiction, with characters who are recognizably human. Consider Frank’s wife Jo — she was once Simon’s lover. And he can remember that time:
"…now he saw her lying on a bed, dark hair spread out behind her, one leg raised, the hotel in Virginia, their one weekend. You never see a woman the same way afterward, knowing the body under the clothes, the way her skin feels. Someone you know, even years later, the look of her the same in your mind. One weekend, sweaty sheets, eating room service in robes, her throaty laugh, the way she gasped when she came, a whole weekend, just them, no one else. And then she met Frank."
“And then she met Frank.” Sticks a pin in nostalgia, doesn’t it? And suggests that the Moscow air will be thick with memories.
Finally, there’s the pleasure of watching experts share their expertise. At a lunch of defectors, one tells how he moved secrects across borders:
“Cool as a cucumber. My wife’s got the papers in her purse, the most valuable piece of paper in the world right then, and she gets to the train station and they’re inspecting bags. IDs, all that. Why then? Who knew? Maybe just routine. But she’s got to get on the train. So she’s wearing a sun hat and she takes it off and slips the paper in the hat, you know, behind that ribbon that goes around on top. And she gets to the M.P. and she says, here, would you hold this? While she opens her purse to find her ID. So he’s holding the plans for the bomb while she’s fishing around in there. So then thanks, here’s your hat, and she’s on the train. It’s one for the books.”
One for this book, anyway.