Black Sun

Doubleday. Jul. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9780385543408. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385543415. SUSPENSE
DEBUT “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” warned Robert Oppenheimer when the first atomic bomb exploded in 1945. Its awesome power led the Soviet Union to race to build the most lethal bomb. In 1961, at a secret site devoted to accomplishing this goal, Soviet scientists live with perks and comforts. Even so, a genius engineer dies from radiation, apparently a suicide. The KGB sends special agent Alexander Vasin to investigate, and though cooperation is absent—the lethal monster is set to blow in just days—Vasin’s probing bears fruit. He theorizes that the engineer was killed because the chief scientist opposed his project. Can the chief scientist foil the KGB’s meddling? The nugget of truth hidden in the conflict is a stunning surprise. Based on the lives of real dissident Soviets, this first novel by journalist and historian Matthews balances technothriller realism with human ambition, greed, and, ultimately, love. In a taut yet discursive style, this title resurrects the paranoia of the Soviet mind-set.
VERDICT Fans of Jason Matthews’s “Red Sparrow” series and Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 will relish this incendiary take on nuclear weapons and the people who made them.

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