*Joseph Kanon. Leaving Berlin. New York: Atria, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4767-0464-7. $27 Fiction
In his seventh thriller, Kanon (Istanbul Passage) turns to postwar Berlin and in particular to the Soviet sector during the difficult months of the blockade (1948-49). Noted author Alex Meier fled Germany for the United States when the Nazis began persecuting Jews. Now, he has been invited back, along with other renowned authors, as culture becomes part of the war between East and West. But Alex’s situation is precarious. He was actually forced to leave the America (and his young son) owing to his intransigence when facing the congressional witch hunt for communists. Recruited as a spy with the promise of exoneration, Alex soon finds himself dealing with issues of trust and his own survival as the East German secret police force him to become an informer. Kanon’s evocation of Berlin in ruins is masterly, but his most striking trait is his depiction of characters under stress, not only Alex but all those he must entangle, including family members who survived the war. VERDICT A pleasure from start to finish, blending literary finesse with action, this atmospheric historical thriller will appeal not only to Kanon’s many fans but to those who enjoy Alan Furst, Philip Kerr, and other masters of wartime and postwar espionage fiction.