The Helsinki Affair

S. & S. Nov. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781668014745. $27.99. THRILLER
Pitoniak’s new novel (following Our American Friend) tells the complicated story of a decades-old betrayal and the decay of patriotic loyalty into disillusioned treason. A Russian apparatchik shows up at the gatehouse of the U.S. embassy in Rome, asking to speak to someone now. The CIA station chief is away, so he talks with Amanda Cole, number two in Rome. He tells her that an influential U.S. senator will die the next morning. It will look like a heart attack, but it’s going to be an assassination. Amanda liaises with her boss, who orders her to do nothing, as it may be a trap to find information. Then the senator dies as predicted. Amanda’s retired-CIA father hands her some notes that the senator left behind: her father is named in them. Early on, readers will realize that Amanda’s father has done something terribly wrong. He’d like her to leave him out of the investigation but knows she won’t. Pitoniak tantalizes by doling info out slowly: why the senator was assassinated, what Amanda’s father did—maybe is still doing. The root lies in a bloody affair 20 years back in Helsinki.
VERDICT Pitoniak does everything well in this twisty spy thriller that should please the most discriminating connoisseur of the genre.
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