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The Prodigal Spy

Joseph Kanon

1,346 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0767901428 / ISBN 13: 9780767901420
Published by Broadway Books, New York, 1998
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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Autographed on the title page. Very highly praised spy thriller. A really great writer. Bookseller Inventory # 003557

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Prodigal Spy

Publisher: Broadway Books, New York

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition, First Printing

About this title

Synopsis:

What if the Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s had actually uncovered a spy? The bestselling author of Los Alamos returns with a thrilling new novel of suspense, romance, and intrigue.  

Washington, 1950.  The trouble with history, Nick Kotlar's father tells him, is that you have to live through it before you know how it'll come out.  And for Walter Kotlar, a high-level State Department official, the stakes couldn't be higher: an ambitious congressman has accused him of treason.  As Nick watches helplessly, his family's privileged world is turned upside down in a frenzy of klieg lights and banging gavels.

Then one snowy night the chief witness against his father plunges to her death and his father flees, leaving only an endless mystery and the stain of his defection.  It would be better, Nick is told, to think of him as dead.

But twenty years later Walter Kotlar is still alive, and he enlists Molly, a young journalist, to bring Nick a disturbing message.  He badly wants to see his son; after two decades of silence and isolation, he is desperate to end his own Cold War.  Resentful but intrigued, Nick agrees to accompany Molly to Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia for the painful reunion.  

Once in Prague, Nick finds a clandestine world where nothing is what it seems--not the beautiful city, shadowy with menace; not the woman with whom he falls in love; and most of all not the man he thinks he no longer knows, yet still knows better than anyone.  For Walter Kotlar has an impossible request: he wants to come home and he wants Nick to help.  He also has a valuable secret about what really happened the night he walked out of Nick's life--and about the deadly conspiracy that still threatens them.

The Prodigal Spy is a story of fathers and sons and the loyalties that transcend borders, and of a young man's search for the truth buried in his own past, when a national drama was made personal and history itself became a crime story.  Like Los Alamos, this is at once an ingenious mystery, a love story, and a masterly recreation of an era whose legacy haunts our own.

Review:

Joseph Kanon's debut thriller, Los Alamos, captivated readers and critics alike and was awarded the 1998 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The Prodigal Spy, set in the aftermath of the Manhattan Project, offers a glimpse at cold war espionage and a very personal story about the effects of McCarthyism and the paranoia that it spawned. Once again, Kanon effortlessly weaves together history and fiction in prose that is thick with period details. The real achievement of the book, though, is the author's strong sense of his narrative center, Nick Kotlar.

The novel begins in 1950 in the Kotlar home in Washington, D.C., as young Nick tries to make sense of the masses of reporters who have gathered outside his house. Though his parents struggle to shield him from the truth, he inadvertently sees a newsreel that reveals his father's predicament: State Department undersecretary Walter Kotlar is under the intense scrutiny of Congressman Kenneth Welles of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kanon perfectly captures the sensibilities of a child with a parent in peril; disbelieving Nick becomes a fledgling spy, trying to erase any clues in his home that might support Welles and his committee. But one night, after an explosive conversation with Nick's mother, his father disappears. That same night, the woman who had accused Walter Kotlar of spying commits suicide--or was she murdered? In 1953, Mr. Kotlar gives a press conference from Moscow announcing his defection. The book then moves to London in 1969, where Nick meets a young woman who tells him that not only is his father still alive but he has been keeping tabs on his son for the 19 years since he fled to the Soviet Union. This revelation draws Nick into a meeting with the seriously ill elder Kotlar and propels Nick into some intelligence gathering of his own--to uncover the man who caused Walter Kotlar's defection and who killed his father's accuser. With The Prodigal Spy, Kannon has once again breathed new life into spy fiction. --Patrick O'Kelley

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