A SHADOW IN MOSCOW by Katherine Reay
GENRE: Historical Espionage Fiction (Clean & Wholesome)
PUBLISHER: Harper Muse
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2023
In the thick of the Cold War, a betrayal at the highest level risks the lives of two courageous female spies: MI6’s best Soviet agent and the CIA’s newest Moscow recruit.
After losing everyone she loves in the final days of World War II, Ingrid Bauer agrees to a hasty marriage with a gentle Soviet embassy worker and follows him home to Moscow. But nothing within the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime is what it seems, including her new husband, whom Ingrid suspects works for the KGB. Inspired by her daughter’s birth, Ingrid risks everything and reaches out in hope to the one country she understands and trusts—Britain, the country of her mother’s birth. She begins passing intelligence to MI6, navigating a world of secrets and lies, light and shadow.
A student in the Foreign Studies Initiative, Anya Kadinova finishes her degree at Georgetown University and boards a flight home to Moscow, leaving behind the man she loves and a country she’s grown to respect. Though raised by dedicated and loyal Soviet parents, Anya soon questions an increasingly oppressive and paranoid regime at the height of the Cold War. Then the KGB murders her best friend and Anya chooses her side. Working in a military research lab, she relays Soviet plans and schematics to the CIA in an effort to end the 1980s arms race.
The past catches up to the present when an unprecedented act of treachery threatens all agents operating within Eastern Europe, and both Ingrid and Anya find themselves in a race for their lives against time and the KGB.
I grew up watching the Bruce Boxleitner/Kate Jackson spy show Scarecrow & Mrs. King which pitted the dashing spy (code name Scarecrow) and his common sense civilian sidekick (a divorced mom of two) against KGB operatives who seemed to be lurking around every corner. Ahhh the 1980s and the height of the more modern-day Cold War. Given my love for (aka slight obsession with) that TV show and growing up in the 1980s, I have a soft spot in my heart for stories that take place against this backdrop. So, needless to say, when A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay came across my book radar, I knew I had to read it.
The author seamlessly takes us back and forth between the early days of the Cold War, just after World War 2, and then to the arms race of the 1980s, both eras full of tangible tension, heart-in-your-throat intrigue, and a dash of romance. Through the engrossing narratives of Ingrid Bauer in the 1940s and Anya Kadinova in the 1980s, readers are given a behind-the-scenes look at the espionage that not only kept MI6 and the CIA a step ahead of the KGB but also took a stand against the Soviet Regime and even saved lives. For each woman there is a defining moment where they decide they are no longer content to toe the party line and choose to fight back against their oppressive government – at great personal risk. Reay beautifully captures their motivations, their emotions, their passionate quests for freedom and peace, and most importantly their courage.
I was fascinated by the cast of characters that helped tell their story, from other agents to handlers to friends and family. Besides Ingrid and Anya, I especially loved Dolores, Dimitri, Scott, Reginald, and Adam. I have a feeling you’ll love them once you meet them too. Some of the people you’ll encounter on these pages are actual historic figures – and if you know your Cold War history you may know how some of the story will play out. But I can guarantee you won’t be able to predict everything.
Bottom Line: A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay immerses the reader in the heart-in-your-throat, always-sweep-for-bugs world of Cold War espionage. But even more than that, it is a compelling character study of two women who have loved deeply, lost much, and decided to do their part to fight for hope. It will leave you reflecting on those throughout history who have dared to reflect Light in the darkness, who have counted the cost of doing the hard thing because it’s the right thing, and who, in so doing, have found the kind of freedom that no one can take away. The ending absolutely undid me, and the epilogue absolutely delighted me. The perfect book club read with much to discuss!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!
Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author who has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books. She publishes both fiction and nonfiction, holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and three children.
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