#BlogTour #BookReview The Matchmaker: A Spy in Berlin by Paul Vidich @RandomTTours @noexitpress

Matchmaker BT PosterWelcome 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.

The Matchmaker imageAbout 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

Find The Matchmaker: A Spy in Berlin on Goodreads

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My Review

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

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Paul Vidich Author picAbout 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.

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#BookReview The Man in the Bunker (Tom Wilde 6) by Rory Clements @ZaffreBooks

The Man in the BunkerAbout the Book

Germany, late summer 1945 – The war is over but the country is in ruins. Millions of refugees and holocaust survivors strive to rebuild their lives in displaced persons camps. Millions of German soldiers and SS men are held captive in primitive conditions in open-air detention centres. Everywhere, civilians are desperate for food and shelter. No one admits to having voted Nazi, yet many are unrepentant.

Adolf Hitler is said to have killed himself in his Berlin bunker. But no body was found – and many people believe he is alive. Newspapers are full of stories reporting sightings and theories. Even Stalin, whose own troops captured the bunker, has told President Truman he believes the former Führer is not dead. Day by day, American and British intelligence officers subject senior members of the Nazi regime to gruelling interrogation in their quest for their truth.

Enter Tom Wilde – the Cambridge professor and spy sent in to find out the truth…

Format: Hardback (460 pages)          Publisher: Zaffre
Publication date: 20th January 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find The Man in the Bunker (Tom Wilde #6) on Goodreads

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My Review

Rory Clements’ books featuring Cambridge professor turned spy, Tom Wilde, have become one of my absolute favourite series. I’ve devoured every one of them and The Man in the Bunker was no exception. (I’m also a fan of his John Shakespeare series set in Elizabethan England.)

Who do the intelligence services in Britain and the United States call on when they’ve a tricky problem to solve? Why Cambridge professor of history turned spy Tom Wilde of course – much to the exasperation of his wife, Lydia, in this case.

The brilliantly dramatic and chilling opening chapter is a prelude to everything you could possibly want from a spy thriller: plenty of action scenes, car chases, narrow escapes, assassins waiting in the shadows, wily and ruthless villains, double-crosses galore. There are also a host of interesting secondary characters, such as the colourful Boris Minsky, Jerzy ‘the boy with the camera’ and the dedicated Dr. Angie Gray.  The skilfully crafted plot means there are plenty of side stories the reason for whose inclusion remains deliciously intriguing for a large part of the book.

Wilde is assigned a companion in his investigation, Lieutenant Mozes Heck. Heck is a wonderfully drawn character. Whilst, as readers of the previous books will know, Wilde has his own share of traumatic memories, Heck’s are beyond imagining. His first-hand and very personal experience of the atrocities committed by the Nazis has given him a deep-seated hatred of those Nazis who survived the war and ‘an overpowering hunger’ for revenge. As a result he is utterly ruthless – shoot first, think later – meaning at times he is difficult for Wilde to control.  ‘Heck was in a blood-red world of his own, and no amount of reasoning was going to alter that.’ On the other hand, Heck’s sharp-shooting skills, physical resilience and ability to pass unnoticed are definitely things you want in a difficult situation, and Wilde and Heck experience plenty of those.

Wilde’s investigation into whether Hitler remains alive takes him to the heart of post-war Germany giving the reader a vivid insight into the destruction visited upon cities such as Berlin by Allied bombing and the advance of the Russian army.  ‘This is real life, this is the detritus of war, right here.’ Berlin has become a place of ruined buildings, piles of rubble and people trying to eke out a living in the shattered remains of their city. It’s a dangerous place as well.  ‘The problems start after dark when the desperate and the dispossessed come out and defy the curfew. It’s kill or be killed.’

There also unsettling scenes in the makeshift camps for people displaced by the War including those who survived the concentration camps. And a visit to a particular site in Berlin brings Wilde a chilling reminder of the evil of the Nazi regime. ‘He did not believe in the occult, nor even an afterlife, yet he could hear the children’s cries.’

I can’t say much more about the plot without giving too much away. But, I hear you ask, does Wilde discover if Hitler survived the Berlin bunker? Sorry, not telling. Read the book and find out.

I thought The Man In The Bunker was absolutely fabulous, another masterly spy thriller from the pen of Rory Clements. A few loose ends left subtly dangling at the end of the book leaves me hoping this is not the last outing for Tom Wilde. In the meantime Tom, Lydia deserves her holiday.

In three words: Compelling, action-packed, suspenseful

Try something similar: V2 by Robert Harris

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Rory ClementsAbout the Author

Rory Clements was born on the edge of England in Dover. After a career in national newspapers, he now writes full time in a quiet corner of Norfolk, where he lives with his wife, the artist Naomi Clements Wright, and their family. He won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger, and the CWA Historical Dagger in 2018 for Nucleus. Three of his other novels – Martyr, Prince and The Heretics – have been shortlisted for awards.

To find out more about The Man In The Bunker and the previous books in the series, join the Rory Clements Readers’ Club via the link in his website. (Photo credit: Author website)

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The Man in the Bunker