Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Defectors” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,991 ratings  ·  380 reviews
From the bestselling author of Leaving Berlin and The Good German comes a thrilling and richly imagined novel focused on three weeks in the lives of a select group of defected American spies in Moscow during the height of the Cold War.
Moscow, 1961. Stalin has been dead for eight years. With the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet Union’s international prestige is at an all-t
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Atria Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Defectors, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Wmba Dams
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Rosemary A. It is about family and what you do for them.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,991 ratings  ·  380 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Defectors
Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
”Frank lit a cigarette, taking a minute. ‘It’s a funny word, defector. Latin, defectus. To desert. Lack something. Makes it sound as if we had to leave something behind. To change sides. But we were already on this side. We didn’t leave anything.’

‘Your country.’

‘Countries don’t matter. In a way, I was already here.’”

Simon Weeks comes to Russia to help his infamous brother put the polishing touches on his autobiography. It is 1961 and in 1949 Frank defected from the United States to Russia after
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: russian-history
A Spy Novel set in Russia during the Cold War times interesting but not hugely engaging for me

In 1949, Frank Weeks, agent of the newly formed CIA, was exposed as a Communist spy and fled the country to vanish behind the Iron Curtain. Now, twelve years later, he has written his memoirs, a KGB- approved project almost certain to be an international bestseller, and has asked his brother Simon, a publisher, to come to Moscow to edit the manuscript. It’s a reunion Simon both dreads and Frank both dr
Lou (nonfiction fiend)
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A master of the technical spy thriller!

It is usually a difficult task to find a well written spy thriller these days - don't get me wrong, there's a plethora of great mystery/thriller writers around creating masterpieces every which way you turn but a mystery/thriller with a large aspect of the plot surrounding politics & espionage, is sometimes an impossible task. Fear not! Joseph Kanon is here with exactly what you desire. Due to the majority of books that class themselves as 'spy thrillers' b
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
This was a spy/thriller/espionage novel set in Russia. This was pretty much 2 stars for me, but I think somehow, I've talked myself into 3. I wasn't pulled into this one. It was very singular in focus as far as the plot goes. Simon felt like a pawn, never acting, never making decisions. He was just told what to do and he did it, even when what the reader is given to understand about him does not support the things he is pushed into. I liked Frank. The reason this gets an extra star is the stand ...more
Mal Warwick
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The disappearance of British diplomats Donald MacLean and Guy Burgess in 1951 and the subsequent revelation in 1956 of them as defectors to the Soviet Union shocked the world and has subsequently provided fodder for a virtual cottage industry of spy novels. Only much later did it come to light that MacLean and Burgess were just two of the notorious Cambridge Five. Both men make cameo appearances in Joseph Kanon's terrific new spy novel, Defectors.

The book opens in Moscow in 1961, where an Ameri
W. Cameron
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A disclosure: I know Joe Kanon personally. He's a fine gentleman with a good sense of humor, and moves through the literary world as if he's just a lowly suspense writer, instead of being the purveyor of literature that he is.

Defectors, like so many Kanon novels, takes us back to a different time. It's the cold war, and the Soviet Union has yet to collapse--in fact, it looks indomitable. When a book editor is invited to publish a memoir by his brother, a man who betrayed his country and became a
Cindy Burnett
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: net-galley
Defectors is a fascinating glimpse behind the Iron Curtain, specifically the Soviet Union, in the 1960’s. Simon Weeks is making an unprecedented visit to the U.S.S.R. to visit his brother Frank, an individual who defected from the U.S. to the Soviet Union in the early 1950’s. Frank has been given permission by the Soviet government to publish his memoirs, and his brother Simon is a bigwig at a publishing company that has agreed to handle the publication. As Frank cannot leave his adopted country ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All of Joseph Kanon's books are intelligent literary thrillers/historical fiction, and every one is great. But his latest book, DEFECTORS, is outstanding.

In 1961 a publisher, Simon, travels to the Soviet Union to edit the "memoir" of a former US citizen who defected to Russia in 1949--his brother, Frank. "Memoir" is in quotation marks because the truth of that book is suspect. The truth of anything Frank says is suspect.

So, when Frank tells Simon he wants to return to the US but can only do so w
Cold War Conversations Podcast
Another great espionage novel from Joseph Kanon

Defectors is set in 1960's Moscow where ex-CIA agent Frank Weeks, a notorious defector to the Soviet Union, wants to publish his memoirs. Frank’s brother, Simon hasn’t seen his brother in more than ten years, but he comes to Moscow to assist in its publication and to learn why Frank chose to betray his country and his family.

Kanon always captures a great sense of time and place in his descriptions of 1960’s Moscow. If you’re expecting high octane ac
Michael Martz
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'Defectors', Joseph Kanon's latest, continues his long winning streak of intelligent, atmospheric thrillers. I don't think there's another writer better than Kanon in evoking time and place through writing technique (although Alan Furst is no slouch in that regard...), and when you combine great prose with an intricate, thoughtful plot, you have a great book. I've loved literally every one of his novels and Defectors is another fine effort.

Defectors is the story of a publishing guy whose brother
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love for your country vs Love for your family.

In Defectors, loyalty to ‘the cause’ is stronger than the loyalty between brothers. After Frank Weeks defected, he’s now about to publish his memoir and that sees him reunited with his brother, Simon. The relationship between the two brothers is rocky to say the least, but as they spend time together and reminisce about their childhood and the mistakes of their past, you begin to wonder if their brotherly bond can be repaired when Frank makes a surpr
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Defectors” a mesmerizing thriller opens in 1961 when Simon Weeks travels to Moscow at the request of his brother Frank, a notorious former CIA agent and defector to the Soviet Union who wants his expertise in completing his memoir before its published in America. Putting aside his bitterness and doubts when they reunite Simon quickly learns that Frank’s wife is a heartbroken drunk after the death of their son Richie; one of the aging defectors in their community mysteriously committed suicide; ...more
Charles Finch
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
My review from USA Today


Joseph Kanon often writes about the aftermath of wars – that starved euphoric moment when there might just be one bullet left over, for you. In Defectors he turns his gaze upon the Cold War, which was a war and its incipience and its aftermath all at once, giving us the story of two American brothers on opposite sides who meet again after twelve years, perhaps for the final time. Their names are Frank and Simon Weeks. Frank betrayed the CIA to the Soviet Union in 1949; n
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Those who enjoy spy novels will definitely like this book. Good intrigue and a rather unexpected finale.
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Kanon has become one of my favorite writers of spy thrillers, a genre I've loved since I read my first Robert Ludlum novel in my teens.

In DEFECTORS, Kanon turns his finely sharpened pen to the shadowy world of defectors from the West, who spied for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and fled to dubious refuge behind the Iron Curtain. The year is 1961. Simon Weeks, a New York publisher, arrives in Russia to oversee the completion of a highly controversial manuscript and surefire future b
Maine Colonial
Thanks to the publisher for providing a free review e-ARC via Netgalley.

Simon Weeks and his older brother Frank were always together, including during their intelligence work through and after World War II. Frank was with the OSS and transitioned to its successor, the CIA. But all along Frank was a Soviet mole, seduced to the call of communism during the Spanish Civil War. In 1950, like so many spies before him, he defected to the USSR.

With such a brother, naturally Simon had to leave his job at
Keith Currie
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Frank Weeks defected to the USSR shortly after the end of WW2, betraying his country, the CIA and his family in the process. In the early 1960s his brother Simon is invited to Moscow to help Frank edit his memoirs for publication in the USA. On arrival, after being primed by the CIA, Simon is reacquainted with his brother and his brother’s wife (a former lover of Simon himself) and is plunged into a murky maelstrom of intrigue. It soon becomes clear that Frank intends to do rather more than publ ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy a good thriller once in a while. But the qualifier matters. Cardboard characters, contrived suspense, and Hollywood cliff-hangers won't cut it. But an espionage novel that hinges on character rather than non-stop action and that provides glimpses of an unfamiliar or exotic world is a great treat. Joseph Kanon's latest, Defectors, fits the bill nicely. It's so good it can be forgiven for some breathless plotting in the final pages.

In 1970, I traveled to Scandinavia and the Soviet Union
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dangerous games with perilous consequences are played to perfection in Defectors. This story of an American CIA agent’s defection during the 1960s is both fascinating and engrossing.

In Moscow, the life Frank Weeks leads with his wife and Russian bodyguard Boris is not what I’d expected at all. There are unwritten rules that are never broken and he’s careful not to abuse these publicly, but as he wrote most of them for ‘The Service’ he knows how to shape them to his advantage on occasion.

What I f
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think someone should buy the rights on this one soon and write a screenplay, because it's that good. The intelligence professionals from the U.S. and UK who disappeared and suddenly reappeared in the USSR during the Cold War is an interesting topic, and I think Kanon as usual has done a good job of revisiting it and injecting some high drama when he does so. He also brings in historical figures at the periphery of the narrative (e.g., "[J. Edgar] Hoover has it coming. He hasn't done a damn thi ...more
Ralph Blackburn
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Defectors by Joseph Kanon- This is cold war story set in the late fifties/early sixties, about two brothers with a history of spying. Simon, who served with the OSS along side his brother during World War Two, and Frank, who caught the revolutionary spirit of Communism and defected to Russia, taking lives and secrets with him. Now. after twelve years, Simon is head of a small publishing house in New York, and Frank is a Colonel in the KGB. Frank is writing his memoirs and entices Simon to come t ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars from 5
This Russian spy story is cleverly conceived and expertly conveyed to allow the reader to imagine the circumstances leading to brotherly deceptions. From the start of the book I was focused on the relationship of the two brothers rather than the ideological differences.
On the one hand, the older American brother defected to Russia in 1949 and now serves as officer in the KGB and has written a book the Service approves of. The younger brother had to establish himself away from hi
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
My review of the book is now an online exclusive for Mystery Scene magazine. You can check it out here: http://www.mysteryscenemag.com/62-rev... ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Russia of Joseph Kanon's Defectors (Atria, digital galley via NetGalley) is the Soviet Union circa 1961, gray and grim as the Cold War. Even the Party faithful have to wait in long lines for food and depend on the black market for basic amenities. Simon Weeks has often wondered why his older brother Frank, a CIA golden boy, chose to defect in 1949. Was it money, ideology, gamesmanship? Now Frank has written his KGB-approved memoirs and asks Simon, who became a publisher after his brother's d ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cold-war
This was, indeed, a fascinating view of life behind the Iron Curtain for Western agents for the Soviets who defected (voluntarily or involuntarily) to the Soviet Union. I have a great fascination for the Cold War, but have never read about this small subset of westerners living out their lives behind the Iron Curtain. They had more privileges than most citizens, but the surveillance never, ever stopped.
At this point in time, I seldom read spy stories, but I do think this is an excellent example
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, spy
A book editor visits his brother in 1961 Moscow to edit his memoirs of defecting to the Soviet Union. As one might imagine in a story centered around a double agent, there's cat-n-mousing galore, with a murder or two, lots of vodka based alcoholism, and no good options in the end. It has the standard types of the genre. The American CIA are cowboys. The Russians are taciturn. The agents are amoral and ruthless.

For a boy who knows very little of Moscow, it was amusing to run across a scene in th
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Held my interest, and of interest as it explored and illuminated what U.S. defectors to Russia mindsets may have been like, and explains their possible motives. Book takes place in same era as Burgess and McLean defections to Russia. Our subject defector takes his wife and small son with him. The son dies of illness, and poor wife is left at wit's end but loyal to her husband. Suspense and mystery at the end, and I must admit a surprise ending, but does not quite reach the pitch it might have. ...more
It’s the early sixties and Moscow looks dim and tired—a graveyard for spent spies, like Frank Weeks. An American defector, now watched by the KGB, he and his ilk carve out a half-life existence. Russia grips them in a fierce bear hug from which they can never escape. When Frank’s American publisher sends younger brother Simon to edit his KGB-approved memoir, change glints on the horizon. As Simon succumbs to the lure of Frank’s smooth talk of brotherly love, you wonder if instead he’ll crash upo ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
A perfect crescendo and climatic conclusion to a story about the defector community in post WWII Soviet Union where those once valued are relegated to "kept" status and rationalize their life altering decisions. This is also a story of two competitive brothers who cannot escape the influence and approval of their parents (especially the father). In a life of lies, deception, and uncertain loyalties, it is difficult to know the truth about anything including oneself which is certainly a tragedy. ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wasn't certain I would like this book, but as the story progressed I was most taken by not only the relevance of the story (Trump and Russia), but also the insight into 1960's Soviet Union and the wrongheaded views of a branch of disgruntled American intellectuals thinking Stalin's (Khrushchev was already premier but Stalin's footprint was indelibly there) brand of "communism" was the answer to what they saw as faulty capitalism in the west. Frank Weeks encapsulates that grievance with his cou ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Trinity Six
  • The Ashes of Berlin (Gregor Reinhardt #3)
  • The Matchmaker: A Spy in Berlin
  • Potsdam Station (John Russell, #4)
  • The Swiss Spy
  • Gettysburg: The Last Invasion
  • Bad Actors (Slough House, #8)
  • The Pale House (Gregor Reinhardt, #2)
  • Dark Star (Night Soldiers, #2)
  • Under Occupation (Night Soldiers, #15)
  • Agent in Berlin (The Wolf Pack Spies #1)
  • The Goodbye Coast
  • Breaking Cover (Liz Carlyle #9)
  • Midnight in Europe (Night Soldiers, #13)
  • The Cover Wife
  • Polar Star (Arkady Renko, #2)
  • Damascus Station
  • Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers, #6)
See similar books…

Related Articles

If you ask us, it's always the perfect time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked the...
175 likes · 103 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »