The prodigal spy

by Joseph Kanon

Hardcover, 1999




London : Little, Brown, 1999.


Twenty years after defecting to the Soviet Union, a U.S. government employee asks his son to clear his name. The father, Walter Kotlar, fled while being investigated by Senator McCarthy and now he is ready to spill the beans on people in the U.S. government who framed him.

User reviews

LibraryThing member agingcow2345
The writing is excellent. The characters are vivid and the pacing superb. However the plot is contrived, the twists often silly [the same lead character has to be by turns blindly optimistic, blindly credulous, and just plain silly] and the ending is obvious halfway through the book which makes the main suspense guessing how the character will deduce what the reader already knows. Worth a read but probably not worth a second reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member kerns222
Sometimes a thriller mystery gets too complicated. You get a brain alarm that says whoa and the story stops dead. You are no longer along for the ride. The characters are doing things too hard for mere mortals. That is when the writer needs to go super hero or magical realism or maybe just do a Vonnegut and bring in the little guys in white suits from outer space.

Kanon tries way too hard with the plot. Anyone who remembers J Edgar will know you cannot get in to see him. Anyone who knows anything about parents and children and Commies will have problems with the hero and his girl and the parents.

But it was fun for two hundred pages. Then I jumped to the end.

If you want this kind of stuff go for le Carré. You cannot beat him.
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LibraryThing member uryjm
This started well, with me believing that I'd finally found something meaty to get my reading teeth into. It seemed an interesting enough story, but the pace was so slow that I began to question the whole thing - why did this loving, caring, intelligent father just up and leave his adored wife and kid to go and live in Russia? Once I started to question the motivations of the characters I needed the plot to pick up and Get On With It, but Kanon was too involved in his characters to deliver on this. Which would have been fine if you could have really believed the plot. I think what I'm trying to say is that the book didn't hang together, and therefore I couldnt get into it.… (more)
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
I adore Kanon's story-telling, but I have to admit that this is my least favorite of those I've read by him, much as I enjoyed some aspects of it. While the characters and story were just as compelling as always, the problem was that I saw one of the twists coming... from the very beginning. So while the characters were, for much of the story, focused on solving one huge question, I was trying to figure out if it was so obvious as I thought it was and they were being idiots, or if the answer was something else entirely. Well, needless to say... I'm afraid I guessed whodunit from the start, even if I didn't wholly know the crime at that point. And, it was frustrating. It is true that there were a number of other twists that came at the end, and that I still enjoyed the story, but at least for me, there's a fair bit of frustration in a reader seeing something pretty clearly when all of the intelligent characters are blind to it--and that somewhat ruined the story for me.

So, would I recommend this? Well, maybe, with that caveat that it's a bit predictable in some respects, though the characters and story-telling are as engrossing as they are in Kanon's other work. Just don't start by reading this by him. His other work is better, simply put.
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LibraryThing member tmph
Perfectly readable, and more than interesting enough. Starts out in 1950 with a young boy's father before the HUAC, jumps to the boy in 1969 and a trip to Czechoslovakia (spying, Communists, etc.) and then back to DC/NYC and a run-in with Hoover (spying, anti-Communists!!). Kanon wrote the pretty good GOOD GERMAN.


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