A Book Spy Review: ‘Defectors’ By Joseph Kanon


In the early 1950s, Frank Weeks, a beloved American operative who cut his teeth in OSS before settling in at the CIA, was unmasked as a Soviet spy. The revelation sent shockwaves through the United States–but it also sent shock waves through his family, with Simon, Frank’s younger brother, taking the hardest blow.

When Frank became a traitor to his country, Simon, who was working at the State Department, was forced to resign due to obvious security concerns.

A decade later, Simon landed on his feet after being recruited by M. Keating & Sons, a prominent publishing company–which he now runs after working his way up the career ladder. However, Frank is about to dominate headlines again and, just like before, it’ll greatly impact Simon and his job.

When news breaks that Frank, the most high-profile American defector in recent memory, is writing his memoirs, the reaction is mixed. Frank is determined to tell it all, his entire story from start to finish for the very first time, but he needs Simon’s help. Playing the family card, Frank convinces Simon to come to Moscow to help him with his book, where things don’t exactly go smoothly.

First, there’s the awkward reunion after Frank cost Simon his job more than a decade ago. Then there’s the book, which, much like his personality, Frank played up–embellishing and outright lying when it served him, and the story, best. Topping it off is Joanna, Frank’s wife, who he swears is one of the reasons he’s writing his book to begin with. As it turns out, though, Simon has his own romantic history with Joanna, adding another dynamic to the story as it develops.

As one might expect when dealing with a family of spies, things aren’t quite what they appear on the surface. What starts as a slow-burn eventually morphs into a suspenseful game of who-can-you-trust, as ulterior motives are revealed–forcing Simon to make one tough decision after another.

Much like John le Carré’s, Joseph Kanon’s plots are complex, as circumstances and characters are ever-changing and throwing readers off as they try to stay a step ahead of the action. Simon is a solid character, full of innocence and loyalty, whereas his brother is more of the stab-you-in-the-back type of person–a trait that goes so against who Simon is, that he literally can’t seem to comprehend it.

While you won’t find a lot of gunfights and explosions in Defectors, Kanon does nail the time period and setting, taking readers back to the 1960s–treating them to a suspenseful, wonderfully written, old-school spy thriller with a terrific cast of characters.

Book Details

Author: Joseph Kanon 
Pages: 290 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501121391
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 7/10
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