... well-paced ... A former foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, with experience in Germany and the Middle East, Fesperman has captured a seedy atmosphere of panic and moral compromise: While young people took pickaxes to the wall, the dinosaurs of the regime retreated to their luxurious gated compounds, fled or tried to leverage their evaporating power .... Fesperman accurately depicts the corrosive effect of life under a surveillance society, debasing both the watchers and the watched ... Most Cold War spy novels focus on the Manichaean ideological struggle between East and West; this one successfully explores a grayer era, when neither side in the conflict understood quite what was happening and the old rules of the game evaporated in a matter of weeks. The trade in truth and lies was booming, and nothing was as it seemed.
The story leads to an exciting conclusion—a thoroughly surprising spin on the typical spies-on-the-run finale—but it is the relationships among the principals that give the novel its depth and power ... Fesperman builds his story around the inner lives of his characters, an approach that transforms typical espionage tropes into universal human drama.
Until the thrilling climax, what’s at stake—what the pitched strategic battles are about—is treated almost as an afterthought. It's the gamesmanship that matters most. Emil's secret meetings with Wolf have the color and bounce of a much finer wine than the one they’re drinking ... An engrossing, deep-in-the-weeds thriller.