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Safe houses
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West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA's network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen's world is upended when she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sight lines of the most ruthless and dangerous man at the agency.

What she has witnessed will have repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.
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*Starred Review* In West Berlin in 1979, Helen Abell, a low-ranking CIA agent, has been relegated to what is virtually a maintenance job cleaning up at various safe houses, changing the tapes, restocking the cabinets, etc. When making an unscheduled visit to one of the houses, she comes upon a top-level agent, Robert, attempting to rape a source. Helen intercedes, knowing there will be blowback, but she has no idea how bad it will be, nor does she know that, in a matter of days, she will be on the run from her own superiors, aided only by two other female agents who have scores to settle with Robert. Flash forward to 2014. Helen and her husband have been murdered at their Iowa farmhouse, apparently by their mentally damaged son. Their daughter, Anna, doesn't buy it and enlists Henry Mattick, an investigator with some shady government ties, to help her poke around. With all the dexterity of Kate Atkinson juggling narrative time lines in Transcription (2018), Fesperman jumps between the Cold War and the near present, filling in the tantalizing blank spaces in Helen's, Anna's, Henry's, and Robert's lives, as a mother and daughter, across time, struggle to penetrate the cliques and factions and competing agendas, all of it beneath the big wonderful tent of the Company. The level of treachery and betrayal, personal and otherwise, depicted here is byzantine in its complexity and potential to spawn collateral damage. This is a masterfully constructed example of classic le Carré-style espionage fiction, the all-enveloping perfidy burrowing its way into inner lives and leaving the survivors only tentatively able to move forward.--Bill Ott Copyright 2018 Booklist
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