It may be a formula, but from the opening paragraph of The Berlin Exchange, with its matter-of-fact immediacy, you feel you’re in safe hands ... At 60 years’ remove, even if a new Tepid War beckons, the novel cannot convey the sense those authors did of there being something vital at stake for a world beyond the characters. Nonetheless, it isn’t merely a homage to them. As an entertainment, it’s superbly accomplished, from the Swiss watch plot and crisp dialogue to an atmosphere so well realized it feels as if it is written in black-and-white film ... Keller proves resourceful and begins to devise ways of escape. Bold disguises, car chases and handbrake-turn twists wind inexorably to a climax at the border that shows that Kanon can do not just the talk, but also the tensest of spotlit walks. Expect this to exchange the page for the screen in due course, but before then let yourself enjoy a modern master at work.
A master stylist of concise yet eloquent writing, Kanon recreates the corrupt atmosphere of East Berlin in 1963, to riveting effect ... Kanon’s books are a gold mine for lovers of espionage. Here he tackles the morality of the humanitarian exchange of political prisoners, a program that filled East Germany’s coffers ... Kanon baits the hook with an early murder and adds seduction and betrayal to bring about the grim conclusion. Fans of Alan Furst and John le Carré will include Kanon as the third member of a Cold War troika.