From the winner of the National Jewish Book Award—Ronald H. Balson’s An Affair of Spies tells of a spy mission to rescue a defector from Germany and prevent the Nazis from creating an atomic bomb.
Nathan Silverman grew up in Berlin in the 1920s, the son of a homemaker and a theoretical physicist. His idyllic childhood was soon marred by increasing levels of bigotry against his family and the rest of the Jewish community, and after his uncle is arrested on Kristallnacht, he leaves Germany for New York City with only his mother’s wedding ring to sell for survival.
While attending an evening course at Columbia in 1942, Nathan notices a recruitment poster on a university wall and decides to enlist in the military and help fight the Nazi regime. To his surprise, he is quickly selected for a special assignment; he is trained as a spy, and ordered to report to the Manhattan Project. There he learns that the Allies are racing to develop a nuclear weapon before the Nazis, and a German theoretical physicist is hoping to defect. The physicist was a friend of his father’s, and Nathan’s mission is to return to Berlin via France and smuggle him out of Europe.
Nathan will be accompanied by Dr. Allison Fisher, a brilliant young scientist who can speak French; he travels to her lab at the University of Chicago for a crash course in nuclear physics, then they embark on their adventure. Nathan and Allison soon develop feelings for one another, but as their relationship deepens they move ever closer to their dangerous goal. Will they be able to escape Europe with the defector and start a new life together, or will they fail their mission and become two more casualties of war?
An Affair of Spies is an action-packed tale of heroism and love in the face of unspeakable evil. Author Ronald H. Balson has applied his unmatched talent for evocative and painstakingly authentic storytelling to the high-stakes world of espionage and created his most thrilling novel yet.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
An Affair of Spies by Ronald H. Balson is one fast-paced thrill ride. In this story, two US spies work inside Germany to find out how far along the Germans are in creating an atomic bomb.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
Based on the blurb, this story sounds incredibly compelling and fast-paced, with a bit of romance thrown into the mix. The cover completely embodies an espionage story.
Actual Reading Experience:
Wow! Just wow! This story starts fast, ends fast, and leaves me breathless in between. How much danger can two US citizens be in the heart of Germany? The risk never stops and never lets up. I was taken for a wonderful thrill ride as the pages flew by and the story unfolded.
The writing is just perfect for the story. If the afterward had said this story was based on real people and events, I would not have been the least surprised because it felt genuine and plausible. The plot is tightly constructed with a focus that never wavers. I loved these aspects the most because they enabled me to completely immerse myself in the story and experience all of the emotions that the characters were going through.
Nathan is the main character. He grew up a German Jew who left Germany for the US a few years before WWII began. Once the war starts, he quickly enlists in the US Army, feeling the need to be in the thick of things in Europe. But, the military soon recognizes what an asset Nathan is and assigns him a spy job right in the heart of Berlin.
Nathan drove me crazy half of the time because his decisions had no logic behind them. I loved and hated that he led with his heart because even though it made him relatable, it also put him in danger more than once.
Allison was much more level-headed, and I loved that she was super bright and kept everything together, even when the odds seemed impossible.
Narration & Pacing:
The narration is in 3rd person and focused solely on Nathan. Since the plot is tightly constructed, focusing on Nathan, even in 3rd person narration, leads to a pace that is fast from start to finish. I loved that it was hard for me to tear my eyes away from the page!
The setting is Germany (and France) during WWII. It is used effectively in telling this tale as it helped put more obstacles in the main character’s way and also helped the reader see what it was like in Germany at this time.
What It Reminds Me Of:
I just finished Mother Daughter Traitor Spy, and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels, even though the settings could not have been more different. Nazis in the US are no less scary than Nazis in Europe.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love fast-paced thrillers and want a focused look at what life was like in Germany during WWII, An Affair of Spies will give you that peek into a world that is much different than many of us would imagine.
Overall Rating: (4.67) ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
- Originality: (3) ⭐⭐⭐
- Writing Quality: (5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Pace: (5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Character Development: (5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Couldn’t Put It Down-ness:(5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Use of Setting: (5) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐