I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.Jonathan Miles
sets himself a difficult task in chronicling the life of master Soviet spy, Otto Katz. As with any spy, one of his goals is to obscure those relevant facts. Combine that with a career that verges on the success of the fictional Sidney Reilly
's accomplishments and you have a real challenge.
Unwisely, in my opinion, Miles starts at the end of Katz's career as he faces the fate of many of Stalin's servants. At first I thought it was an attempt to develop sympathy for the character, but I've come to realize it's more a continuation of the dust jacket. Katz's life, assuming Miles is correct (and I have no reason to disbelieve), is so absurd as to have Miles attempt to further sell the reader on reading the story. This preface is not needed and it, along with the murky early years of Katz's life, delay the reader from getting to the enjoyable substance of the book, which really begins after the Reichstag fire
From there, it's headlong into the rise of Nazi Germany as Katz attempts to rally anti-facist spirit in Europe and the U.S. while his master secretly negotiates with the Third Reich. Involved in the development of such notorious events as the Cambridge Spy Ring and potentially the assassination of Leon Trotsky, while inspiring such characters as Victor Lazlo in Casablanca
, Katz went all over the world in multiple identities, all in service to the Soviet Union, only to find himself yet another one of Papa Stalin's victims.
If you can make your way through the weaker early chapters, then you'll find this an interesting insight into the influence one man with many faces had on the 20th Century.