A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
In the vein of Graham Greene and John le Carré, The Matchmaker delivers a chilling Cold War spy story set in West Berlin, where an American woman targeted by the Stasi must confront the truth behind her German husband's mysterious disappearance.
Berlin, 1989. Protests across East Germany threaten the Iron Curtain and Communism is the ill man of Europe.
Anne Simpson, an American who works as a translator at the Joint Operations Refugee Committee, thinks she is in a normal marriage with a charming East German. But then her husband disappears and the CIA and Western German intelligence arrive at her door.
Nothing about her marriage is as it seems. She had been targeted by the Matchmaker—a high level East German counterintelligence officer—who runs a network of Stasi agents. These agents are his "Romeos" who marry vulnerable women in West Berlin to provide them with cover as they report back to the Matchmaker. Anne has been married to a spy, and now he has disappeared, and is presumably dead.
The CIA are desperate to find the Matchmaker because of his close ties to the KGB. They believe he can establish the truth about a high-ranking Soviet defector. They need Anne because she's the only person who has seen his face - from a photograph that her husband mistakenly left out in his office - and she is the CIA’s best chance to identify him before the Matchmaker escapes to Moscow. Time is running out as the Berlin Wall falls and chaos engulfs East Germany.
But what if Anne's husband is not dead? And what if Anne has her own motives for finding the Matchmaker to deliver a different type of justice?
The opening of this forgettable spy novel from Vidich (The Mercenary) sets the heavy-handed tone: "Peril came early to the apartment on Bethaniendamm, overtaking the changes that were sweeping through the streets and alleys of a divided Cold War Berlin." It's 1989, and American Anne Simpson works as an interpreter at the Joint Allied Refugee Operations Center in West Berlin, debriefing refugees from Eastern Europe. She's happily married to German piano tuner Stefan Koehler. Then a consular officer informs her Stefan is missing, his wallet found next to a canal. Simpson believed her husband had been in Vienna and Prague tuning orchestra pianos. Her alarm grows when she finds out West German intelligence suspects Stefan is working with the so-called Matchmaker, the head of East German counterintelligence, to provide confidential details about NATO deployments. As Anne tries to ascertain her spouse's fate and the truth of the allegations against him, she learns secrets that change her view of the man she loves. The plot moves along predictable lines, and none of the characters makes much of an impression. Vidich has done better. Agent: Will Roberts, Gernert Company.