4 out of 4 stars
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Around the early 70s, the world was engulfed in the Cold War. Espionage, spies, agents, and double-agents ruled the day. America and Britain on one side and Russia and Germany on the other side were embroiled in a silent but bitter war for superiority. Against this backdrop, a lot of people found themselves drawn into a conflict they knew nothing about. Eric Barrenger was just a master's degree student working to bag his degree at Uppsala University, Sweden. By some twist of fate, he found himself working as a courier for the CIA. However, on one of his assignments across the border, he met another agent—Lena—which was a severe breach of protocol. Little did they know this meeting would have far-reaching consequences that would reverberate all over Europe and eternally alter their lives in ways they could never have imagined.
Lena's Secret War was an exceptional thriller. From the first page to the last, this was one book I found difficult to put down. Talk about intrigue, suspense, drama, comedy, adventure, plot twists; this book has it all. Fred G. Baker did an excellent job of bringing to life the Cold War and all the intrigue and forces at play at the time. From the USA to Sweden, Germany to Prague, and all over Europe, the author took me on a journey into the life of a spy—in this case, Eric and Lena—during the Cold War. I enjoyed how he also used this story to portray the contrast between the prevailing economic models of capitalism and communism that sharply divided Europe at the time. This tale was divided into three parts. The first part set the background of Eric's story. The second part detailed Lena's efforts as she strived to help collapse the brutal communist regime in Russia at the time. The last part concluded the first two in a way that tied them together and brought a resolution that could only be described as idyllic.
Baker's storytelling skills must be commended. I read one of his books some time ago—Zona: The Forbidden Land—and the rush I felt while reading that book came back with this one. Apparently, Baker isn't a one-hit wonder. The pulsating nature of his writing and the intriguing manner of Eric's and Lena's adventures and missions made this tale worthwhile and then some.
Initially, the story seemed disjointed; some characters and their roles seemed removed from the plot's core. It turns out this was intentional, as everything eventually came together at the right time. I honestly feel this story would be successful if it were adapted for the big screen.
I found nothing to dislike about this tale. I rate it an unreserved 4 out of 4 stars for a powerful story, well-developed characters, and excellent worldbuilding. I recommend it to people who love a bit of history in their fiction adventure stories.
Lena's Secret War
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