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The Prodigal Spy Paperback – 6 Jul 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349112142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349112145
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 3.4 x 17.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,196,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Joseph Kanon's debut thriller, Los Alamos, captivated readers and critics alike and was awarded the 1998 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The Prodigal Spy, set in the aftermath of the Manhattan Project, offers a glimpse at cold war espionage and a very personal story about theeffects of McCarthyism and the paranoia that it spawned. Once again, Kanon effortlessly weaves together history and fiction in prose that is thick with period details. The real achievement of the book, though, is the author's strong sense of his narrative centere, Nick Kotlar.

The novel begins in 1950 in the Kotlar home in Washington, D.C., as young Nick tries to make sense of the masses of reporters who have gathered outside his house. Though his parents struggle to shield him from the truth, he inadvertently sees a newsreel that reveals his father's predicament: State Department Undersecretary, Walter Kotlar, is under the intense scrutiny of Congressman Kenneth Welles of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kanon perfectly captures the sensibilities of a child with a parent in peril; disbelieving Nick becomes a fledgling spy, trying to erase any clues in his home that might support Welles and his committee. But one night, after an explosive conversation with Nick's mother, his father disappears. That same night, the woman who had accused Walter Kotlar of spying commits suicide--or was she murdered? In 1953, Mr. Kotlar gives a press conference from Moscow announcing his defection. The book then moves to London in 1969, where Nick meets a young woman who tells him that not only is his father still alive but he has been keeping tabs on his son for the 19 years since he fled to the Soviet Union. This revelation draws Nick into a meeting with the seriously ill elder Kotlar and propels Nick into some intelligence gathering of his own--to uncover the man who caused Walter Kotlar's defection and who killed his father's accuser. With The Prodigal Spy, Kannon has once again breathed new life into spy fiction. --Patrick O'Kelley, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Joseph Kanon's debut thriller, Los Alamos, captivated readers and critics alike and was awarded the 1998 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. The Prodigal Spy, set in the aftermath of the Manhattan Project, offers a glimpse at cold war espionage and a very personal story about theeffects of McCarthyism and the paranoia that it spawned. Once again, Kanon effortlessly weaves together history and fiction in prose that is thick with period details. The real achievement of the book, though, is the author's strong sense of his narrative centere, Nick Kotlar. The novel begins in 1950 in the Kotlar home in Washington, D.C., as young Nick tries to make sense of the masses of reporters who have gathered outside his house. Though his parents struggle to shield him from the truth, he inadvertently sees a newsreel that reveals his father's predicament: State Department Undersecretary, Walter Kotlar, is under the intense scrutiny of Congressman Kenneth Welles of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kanon perfectly captures the sensibilities of a child with a parent in peril; disbelieving Nick becomes a fledgling spy, trying to erase any clues in his home that might support Welles and his committee. But one night, after an explosive conversation with Nick's mother, his father disappears. That same night, the woman who had accused Walter Kotlar of spying commits suicide--or was she murdered? In 1953, Mr. Kotlar gives a press conference from Moscow announcing his defection. The book then moves to London in 1969, where Nick meets a young woman who tells him that not only is his father still alive but he has been keeping tabs on his son for the 19 years since he fled to the Soviet Union. This revelation draws Nick into a meeting with the seriously ill elder Kotlar and propels Nick into some intelligence gathering of his own--to uncover the man who caused Walter Kotlar's defection and who killed his father's accuser. With The Prodigal Spy, Kannon has once again breathed new life into spy fiction. (- Patrick O'Kelley, Amazon.com)

The Prodigal Spy is a mystery and a novel of ideas... (Allan Massie)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Darren Simons TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 July 2003
Format: Paperback
This novel tells the story of an American, Nick Kotlar who spent his life growing up with the horrible childhood memory of his father disappearing and then reappearing having defected to Moscow, at the height of the Cold War. A shock meeting with a mystery woman prompts a journey for Nick into Czechoslovakia to find his father.
Before making the journey he finds himself asking one simple question – why does he want to see me? The book is a tense thriller combining several different threads, notably the relationship between Nick and his father, and his memory of the events which scarred him as a child.
I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this book that really appealed, perhaps it’s just the originality. I’ll definitely be reading some of Kanon’s other books in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jun 2004
Format: Paperback
If you are like me, you thought you knew what you thought about the Red hunts in Washington in the early 1950s and about Soviet spying activities since then. Joseph Kanon changed my perspective completely by focusing on Nick Kotlar, the son of a man accused of being a Soviet agent by the House Un-American Activities Committee. As the book begins, Nick is ten and his house is surrounded by reporters every morning before his father heads to the Capitol to testify. As the story continues, Nick plays a determined hand in trying to understand what was going on . . . and what it all meant. The book becomes an amazing story of finding oneself by sifting through the ruined lives of the older generation.
The book is in three sections (in Washington D.C. in 1950, in Europe 18 years later, and back in the United States shortly thereafter). The first two are riveting and tremendously rewarding. The final section is far too predictable to work well. I recommend that you read the book, nevertheless. You can actually skip the final section if you want. I think I would have liked the book better if I had.
I listened to this book rather than read it. The version I listened to was the unabridged one by Books on Tape. Michael Kramer does an impressive job with the different characters by altering his voice more than I thought possible. Some of the voices he does for the people in Czechoslovakia are brilliant! Try to listen to this version if you can.
After you finish reading or listening to the book, think about where today power is being used to create harm and deny freedom of choice. Where is it being done by totalitarian regimes . . . and where by democratic ones? What are the differences? How can such abuses of power be eliminated?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By tim.shipman@virgin.net on 27 Feb 2002
Format: Paperback
Joe Kanon's first novel, set in the dying days of the Second World War, managed to conjure up the brooding atmosphere, peril, lust and betrayal of espionage at America's top secret Los Alamos plant where the Atomic Bomb was built. It was one of the most assured pageturners of recent years.
With The Prodigal Spy, Kanon has triumphantly conquered the second book blues. A former publishing industry executive, he has distilled a lifetime of experience into crafting this expert tale that brilliantly evokes the MacCarthyite witch-hunts of the 50s and the snarling paranoia of the later Cold War.
But this is not formula fiction. The Prodigal Spy combines - almost uniquely - the three essentials of an intelligent historical thriller. Take Alan Furst's atmospherics, Robert Harris's plots and Len Deighton's knowing, sardonic characterisation and you are somewhere close to what Kanon achieves in this expert twist-laden tale of two superpowers, a father and a son, a man and his lover searching for truth and redemption.
Mid-market fiction perfection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Los Alamos because I was attracted to the title, but I read Konan's new book The Prodigal Spy because I liked Los Alamos so much and anticipated a good read. I was not disappointed. I found the story wholly believeable, and though the end may be slightly predictable, it's the right ending. It's basically a love story, but about all different kinds of love - the love between men and women, between fathers and sons, between men and their countries. It's not often that a book makes me almost cry. This one did, several times. You read some books and decide afterwards that it's not so hard, you could do it, write a novel I mean, if you put in enough effort. Then you read books like The Prodigal Spy, which make you think twice. It's brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. M. Sinstadt VINE VOICE on 12 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to The Prodigal Spy from Los Alamos - hopeful but wondering if the second novel could match the standards set by the first. I need not have worried.

There are enough surprises (at least until the final pages) to sustain the narrative thrust but at the same time they restrain a reviewer from revealing too much of the plot. Suffice to say that it is soundly based in McCarthy era America and Iron Curtain Czechoslovakia still recovering from the suicide of Jan Masaryk. The atmosphere is convincingly oppressive.

But that may still be the least of the book's virtues. The characters live beyond the pages, and they speak the way human beings speak (dialogue in thrillers rarely enjoys an ear as acute as Joseph Kanon's). Within the conventions of the espionage story, The Prodigal Spy explores profound issues of love and betrayal in adult, thought-provoking terms.

The fact that the end becomes predictable should not deter; it is inherent in the setting and the characters who inhabit it. Kanon sits comfortably on the shelf beside Le Carré, Furst, McCarry - a select band
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