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The Prodigal Spy

New or Used: 4 copies from $4.94
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MAJOR GBP50,000 CAMPAIGN * Nationwide advertising campaign to include 4-sheet posters at mainline stations and full colour ads in the MAIL ON SUNDAY and TIMES * Poster and mixed display bin with buy-one-get-one-free offer with LOS ALAMOS * Submitted for trade promotions * Review coverage * Reading copies available

About the Author

Joe Kanon was a publisher for many years, but turned poacher by becoming a novelist with his first, bestselling thriller LOS ALAMOS.


Suppose Sen. Joseph McCarthy, HUAC, and other loyalty investigators had actually unearthed a Communist spy during those pyrotechnic years from 1950 to 1954? And suppose this spy had disappeared and was not heard from until 1969, when through mysterious means he communicates from Prague with his grown son and tells him he wishes to return to the United States. On this premise, Kanon has constructed a literate, swiftly paced thriller. As in Los Alamos (LJ 3/15/97), he again demonstrates his ability to tell a story and make his characters come alive. There is suspense, expertly built up; a love interest, in the most approved contemporary fashion; and action, in the classic spy tradition. The political climate of Washington in the 1950s and the atmosphere of suspicion and fear in Prague under the Soviets feel real. A treat for crime fans who appreciate blithe and brittle writing.‘A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston

'The Prodigal Spy is a mystery and a novel of ideas ... distinguished by a mastery of structure and a lucid style' - Allan Massie 'This is a beautifully written book' - Sunday Telegraph 'Kanon is a wonderfully fluent writer with a gift for honed dialogue' - Observer

Kanon's second novel, after the very well-received Los Alamos, is somewhat disappointing. He ventures into John le Carré territory, telling the tale of an American State Department official, hounded by the McCarthyites in 1950, who proves them right by abruptly decamping to the Soviet Union in the middle of congressional hearings into his loyalty. The tale of Walter Koltar is told by his son Nick, both at the time of his disappearance, when Nick is a small boy not quite understanding what is happening to his father, and nearly 20 years later, when he receives a mysterious summons to visit his father, now living in Czechoslovakia, just after the illusory "Prague Spring" of 1968. Walter wants to return home and thinks he has a trump card that will make that possible. Will Nick help out? As he proved in Los Alamos, Kanon is very adept at rendering the feeling and atmosphere of another time, and his early chapters are powerful evocations of that strange period in American life. He is good, too, on the bizarre quality of life in Prague after the Soviet invasion. The book is thoughtful, often penetrating, though at its considerable length, and with its comparatively small cast‘Nick; his abandoned mother; his stepfather, Larry (another top Washington official); and his girlfriend Molly‘it sometimes is a bit claustrophobic. The real problems appear in the last 100 pages, where the pace accelerates, J. Edgar Hoover is introduced as a not altogether convincing walk-on, and Nick takes a catastrophic action that seems entirely out of character with how he has been presented previously. It is as if the conventions of the spy thriller are working against Kanon's real strengths, which are in the creation of character as forged by intelligently re-created history. (Jan.)

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