The Liar: How a Double Agent in the CIA Became the Cold War’s Last Honest Man

PublicAffairs: Perseus. Aug. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781541700796. $29. CRIME
Economist correspondent Cunningham pens a satisfying Cold War spy tale spanning several decades. Double agent Karel Koecher came of age in Prague as the Communist Party clamped down on the country in 1948. Rebellious and disaffected, Karel and some classmates were arrested by the StB, a secret police force, for their half-baked plot to overthrow the Communist regime, which marked Karel as suspicious. His spotty record limited his career opportunities, so he became an agent for the StB and met his wife, Hana, who was up for the adventure. Assigned to infiltrate the CIA in the United States, he moved to New York in 1965 and studied at Columbia University, while Hana worked in the diamond trade. Soon he was inside the CIA translating documents, positioned to play the role of double agent. He took information he accessed there and fed it back to Communist intelligence agencies, including the KGB.
VERDICT Cunningham excels at his research, placing his story against a backdrop of political events through the 1980s as Karel and Hana reach their pinnacle in hedonistic, high society New York, until it all comes crashing down. An intriguing debut.
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