Dan Fesperman’s Hot Book of the Week

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Dan Fesperman recently appeared for a virtual event for The Poisoned Pen. His current book, Winter Work, is the Hot Book of the Week at the bookstore. There are signed copies of that book through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3o0Esoh Joseph Kanon also appeared because Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, thought his recent book, The Berlin Exchange, has common elements with Winter Work. You can also order copies of that book. https://bit.ly/3yAj5ix

Here’s the description of Winter Work.

An exhilarating spy thriller inspired by a true story about the precious secrets up for grabs just after the fall of the Berlin Wall—from the acclaimed author of The Cover Wife

On a chilly early morning walk on the wooded outskirts of Berlin, Emil Grimm finds the body of his neighbor, a fellow Stasi officer named Lothar, with a gunshot wound to the temple and a pistol in his right hand. Despite appearances, Emil suspects murder. A few months earlier he would have known just what to do, but now, as East Germany disintegrates, being a Stasi colonel is more of a liability than an asset. More troubling still is that Emil and Lothar were involved in a final clandestine mission, one that has clearly turned deadly. Now Emil must finish the job alone, on uncertain ground where old alliances seem to be shifting by the day.

Meanwhile, CIA agent Claire Saylor, sent to Berlin to assist an Agency mop-up action against their collapsing East German adversaries, has just received an upgrade to her assignment. She’ll be the designated contact for a high-ranking foreign intelligence officer of the Stasi, although details are suspiciously sketchy. When her first rendezvous goes dangerously awry, she realizes the mission is far more delicate than she was led to believe.

With the rules of the game changing fast, and as their missions intersect, Emil and Claire find themselves on unlikely common ground, fighting for their lives against a powerful enemy hiding in the shadows. 


DAN FESPERMAN served as a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, based in Berlin. His coverage of the siege of Sarajevo led to his debut novel, Lie in the Dark, which won Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel. Subsequent books have won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, the Dashiell Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers, the Barry Award for best thriller, and selection by USA Today as the year’s best mystery/thriller novel. He lives in Baltimore.


Here’s the summary of The Berlin Exchange.

From “the most accomplished spy novelist working today” (The Sunday Times, London), a “heart-poundingly suspenseful” (The Washington Post) espionage thriller set at the height of the Cold War, when a captured American who has spied for the KGB is returned to East Berlin, needing to know who arranged for his release and what they now want from him.

Berlin, 1963. An early morning spy swap, not at the familiar setting for such exchanges, nor at Checkpoint Charlie, where international visitors cross into the East, but at a more discreet border crossing, usually reserved for East German VIPs. The Communists are trading two American students caught helping people to escape over the wall and an aging MI6 operative. On the other side of the trade: Martin Keller, a physicist who once made headlines, but who then disappeared into the English prison system. Keller’s most critical possession: his American passport. Keller’s most ardent desire: to see his ex-wife Sabine and their young son.

The exchange is made with the formality characteristic of these swaps. But Martin has other questions: Who asked for him? Who negotiated the deal? The KGB? He knows that nothing happens by chance. They want him for something. Not physics—his expertise is out of date. Something else, which he cannot learn until he arrives in East Berlin, when suddenly the game is afoot.

Intriguing and atmospheric, with action rising to a dangerous climax, The Berlin Exchange “expertly describes what happens when a disillusioned former agent tries to come in from the cold” (The New York Times Book Review), confirming Kanon as “the greatest writer ever of historical espionage fiction” (Spybrary).


Joseph Kanon is the Edgar Award–winning author of The AccompliceDefectorsLeaving Berlin, Istanbul PassageLos AlamosThe Prodigal SpyAlibiStardust, and The Good German, which was made into a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. He lives in New York City.


If you like spy novels or even history, you’ll want to listen to this conversation.