144. Defectors by Joseph Kanon

Let me begin by saying that Defectors by Joseph Kanon is the only Spy novel that I’ve come across which teleports you all the way back to Cold War Era Soviet Union and, creates an ambiance of snow falling and men in black coats watching over their shoulders.

Which I’m all for!!!

So where do I begin with this review? I am so psyched!

I finished the book a week ago and just when I thought I had the plot figured out the author would add in another twist and I’d be like “oh my gosh where do they go from here now?”

This historical fiction thriller set in Moscow will literally blow your mind if this genre catches your fancy. I honestly think you should give this one a try if you’ve never read any Spy thriller before.

The story is about two brothers Frank and Simon, who served in the CIA aka “the Agency” during and after the WW 1 and 2, until Frank defected to the Soviet Union.

After such a huge betrayal to his country and family, Simon had to face many consequences including losing his job but managed to gain employment in a publishing house. Now, many years later, he is contacted by his brother – well through a KGB agency to be precise – to publish his memoir.

“It’s a funny word defector. Latin. Defectus. To desert. To lack something. Makes it sound as if we had to leave something behind. To change sides. But we were already on this side. We didn’t leave anything”

Knowing that the US Govt will be against it and after many hurdles, the book is being published with a catch: he has to go to the Soviet Union and complete any and all drafts of the memoir with Frank.

Once he lands in Moscow, and meets with his brother and his wife, he realizes just how much troubled the two are, and their life isn’t what they thought it would be. Slowly, Franks reveals a plan of defecting back to the US and enlists Simon’s help.

“Remember Natasha in war and Peace? When she dances to that Russian song? It’s supposed to be a symbol of Russia. According to Professor Davis she was the last one. I don’t think anyone danced since.”

And so those two hatch up a plan against the Soviet Union, the US Govt, family, friends, comrades and everything in between, only to realize one of them has another trick up his sleeve and isn’t being transparent about his motives to the other.

So in between the cold streets of Moscow, with tensions high, bugged rooms, and mentions of real-life US defectors this thriller takes you back in the Cold War Era and the story unveils like those Espionage movies that keep you on the edge.

I was heavily engaged throughout Defectors and although the story was good, the writing style was a bit hard to figure out.

For starters Joseph Kanon assumes you know the layout of Moscow in the 50’s, are enlisted by the CIA, and can understand spy talk. Also, it isn’t clear when a character’s monologue begins or ends, and a general story setting by the author begins. But you catch the hang of it.

The writing seems a bit choppy that way, but otherwise the story is was a good read.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 4.5/5.0
  1. Reader level: Easy
  2. Should you read: If you love stories set in Russia and are/was a fan of Bridge of Spies, this will be right up your alley.
  3. Would I read it again: Yes!

Till next time,


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