Book Review: The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay

Posted March 4, 2024 by meezcarrie in Book Review, clean, historical, Katherine Reay / 8 Comments


The Berlin Letters book review

The Berlin Letters by Katherine ReayTHE BERLIN LETTERS by Katherine Reay
GENRE: Espionage/Cold War Fiction (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Harper Muse
RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2024
PAGES: 364

Bestselling author Katherine Reay returns with an unforgettable tale of the Cold War and a CIA code breaker who risks everything to free her father from an East German prison.

From the time she was a young girl, Luisa Voekler has loved solving puzzles and cracking codes. Brilliant and logical, she’s expected to quickly climb the career ladder at the CIA. But while her coworkers have moved on to thrilling Cold War assignments—especially in the exhilarating era of the late 1980s—Luisa’s work remains stuck in the past decoding messages from World War II.

Journalist Haris Voekler grew up a proud East Berliner. But as his eyes open to the realities of postwar East Germany, he realizes that the Soviet promises of a better future are not coming to fruition. After the Berlin Wall goes up, Haris finds himself separated from his young daughter and all alone after his wife dies. There’s only one way to reach his family—by sending coded letters to his father-in-law who lives on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

When Luisa Voekler discovers a secret cache of letters written by the father she has long presumed dead, she learns the truth about her grandfather’s work, her father’s identity, and why she has never progressed in her career. With little more than a rudimentary plan and hope, she journeys to Berlin and risks everything to free her father and get him out of East Berlin alive.

As Luisa and Haris take turns telling their stories, events speed toward one of the twentieth century’s most dramatic moments—the fall of the Berlin Wall and that night’s promise of freedom, truth, and reconciliation for those who lived, for twenty-eight years, behind the bleak shadow of the Iron Curtain’s most iconic symbol.


Like anyone who grew up in the 80s, I remember the news footage of the day the Berlin Wall came down. I knew it was monumental, even in my 12 year old mind, but until reading The Berlin Letters, I didn’t really have a human connection to it. In her latest Cold War novel, author Katherine Reay gives heart and breath and soul to the people living on both sides of the Wall and those fighting for freedom (be they within or without).

I loved Luisa, the little 3-year-old we meet at a life-altering moment … and then the 31-year-old we become reacquainted with as everything changes for her once more. Bookending those two meetings is the Berlin Wall, from its very beginning to its final days, and the author made the history & politics come alive with a dual narrative that gave me a new perspective on those tough years in between. And while my life experiences don’t mirror Luisa’s in any sense, I still felt as though I could easily place myself in her shoes because of how relatable Reay made her personality and insecurities. I came to love her father’s character as well, through his narrative sections as well as through the letters that Luisa uncovers after her grandfather’s death. There are some stunning twists to his story, and I was glued to the last half of the book, barely remembering to breathe!

Bottom Line: Code breaking, hidden letters, mysterious pasts, the CIA, newspaper reporters, covert missions, snitches, secrets upon secrets… And family. And friends. And a subtle reminder that God never wastes a single thing in our lives. I loved The Berlin Letters from cover to cover and could not put it down! The characters are so well-layered, the history so compelling, and the writing voice so engaging that I’m confident you will quickly become immersed in it as well. The espionage elements fascinated me (I’ve secretly wanted to work for the CIA since my very first episode of Scarecrow & Mrs King haha), and I learned things that I wasn’t taught in school about the Berlin Wall. All while being thoroughly entertained and drawn to a story so far from my own and yet the emotions remained completely relatable at the same time. I’ve loved everything Katherine Reay writes but I have especially loved her Cold War novels and I hope there are more to come!

(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: 4.5 stars / loved it!

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Katherine Reay

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. You can meet her at katherinereay.com.

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8 responses to “Book Review: The Berlin Letters by Katherine Reay

  1. Jeanne Bishop

    Katherine Reay is one of my favorite authors. “A Shadow in Moscow” was exceptional, so I’m eagerly awaiting “The Berlin Letters.”

  2. Paula Shreckhise

    I read it too and i5 was fascinating. Exceptional writing, reasearch and yes, entertaining. I love spy stuff.

    • hi Lual, there’s no giveaway for this one but it’s a fabulous book! I hope you can buy a copy soon or check it out from your local library!

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