Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Matchmaker: A Spy in Berlin by Paul Vidich. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to No Exit for my digital review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today Sharon at Beyond The Books.
About the Book
Berlin, 1989. Anne Simpson, an American who works as a translator at the Joint Operations Refugee Committee, thinks she is in a normal marriage with a charming East German. But then her husband disappears and the CIA and Western German intelligence arrive at her door. Nothing about her marriage is as it seems.
Anne had been targeted by the Matchmaker – a high level East German counterintelligence officer – who runs a network of Stasi agents. These agents are his ‘Romeos’ who marry vulnerable women in West Berlin to provide them with cover as they report back to the Matchmaker. Anne has been married to a spy, and now he has disappeared, and is presumably dead.
The CIA are desperate to find the Matchmaker because of his close ties to the KGB. They believe he can establish the truth about a high-ranking Soviet defector. They need Anne because she’s the only person who has seen his face – from a photograph that her husband mistakenly left out in his office – and she is the CIA’s best chance to identify him before the Matchmaker escapes to Moscow.
Time is running out as the Berlin Wall falls and chaos engulfs East Germany. But what if Anne’s
husband is not dead? And what if Anne has her own motives for finding the Matchmaker to deliver
a different type of justice?
Format: Paperback (256 pages) Publisher: No Exit Press
Publication date: 17th February 2022 Genre: Thriller
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As a fan of spy thrillers, the description of The Matchmaker’s subject matter was like catnip to me. A spy thriller set in Berlin immediately conjures up the decades after the Second World War but The Matchmaker is set at the very end of the Cold War in the months running up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
So this is John le Carré in the era of punk, as it were, with Anne Simpson, the book’s protagonist, observing teenagers with ‘steel-studded leather jackets with safety pin epaulets, spiked hair, heavy boots and defiant swaggers’ on the streets of West Berlin. It remains a time of political tension in a divided Berlin with the forces of East and West Germany keeping watch over each other across the Berlin Wall and Stasi informers embedded in West Berlin neighbourhoods. Anne sees stark reminders of the contrast between the relative prosperity of those living in West Berlin and the situation in East Berlin with ’empty streets, muted colours, a grim sameness and people who kept to themselves’.
The events in The Matchmaker are inspired by the real life figure of Markus Wolf, chief of foreign intelligence in the Ministry of State Security of the German Democratic Republic who successfully deployed Stasi agents as ‘Romeos’, targeting lonely women in a position to provide useful intelligence via men they believed married them for love. Anne is just such a woman although she had begun to have suspicions about her husband Stefan’s frequent trips abroad and his ability to fund such a lavish lifestyle.
When Stefan disappears and is believed dead not only does Anne have to deal with her grief but the discovery that her husband was not the man she thought he was. ‘She saw the ruinous thread of incidents woven into a tapestry of deceit.’ As it turns out, the proof of very personal deceit is closer than she thinks. Anne finds herself a pawn in a political game because she possesses the key to identifying The Matchmaker, a man sought by both the CIA and West German intelligence. Threatened with the consequences of her marriage to Stefan if she does not assist their investigation, Anne finds herself in a dilemma. ‘There was peril if she cooperated and peril if she did not’.
Anne makes a superb leading character. She’s feisty, resourceful and grows in strength and determination as the novel progresses. There were several occasions when I found myself silently mouthing ‘Go, girl’ and one incident in particular in which her riposte to an instruction had me laughing out loud. When Anne realises political opportunism may trump justice, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
The Matchmaker has all the ingredients you would expect from an espionage thriller. It’s a fast-paced novel full of atmosphere, intrigue and some dramatic set pieces, all set against the backdrop of a pivotal moment in German history. If you’re looking for a book that evokes the feeling of a John le Carré novel I’m confident you will enjoy The Matchmaker. I’m now off to add the author’s previous books to my wishlist.
In three words: Taut, atmospheric, gripping
Try something similar: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré
About the Author
Paul Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he served as Special Advisor to AOL and was Executive Vice President at the Warner Music Group, in charge of technology and global strategy. He serves on the Board of Directors of Poets & Writers and The New School for Social Research. A founder and publisher of the Storyville App, Vidich is also an award-winning author of short fiction. His novels, An Honorable Man, The Good Assassin and The Coldest Warrior, are available from No Exit Press.