The Kennedy Imperative (Book One of a Trilogy: Berlin, 1961), by Leon Berger

Author Leon Berger’s “The Kennedy Imperative” throws the reader right into Cold War Berlin, where fledgling agent Phillip Marsden is given what seems to be a simple mission–to accompany Major Hank Leland to an international conference in East Berlin. East-West tensions were running high, and this conference was designed to clear up boundary issues. This was good. Phillip–who spoke Russian like a native–was trained to sound like a poorly trained American lackey, just to put the Russians at ease, just so they wouldn’t know he was well-trained CIA.

The problem is, Phillip never arrived at the conference. He was taken from the Jeep, and driven to a desolate prison. There, he was kept in a stark cell with nothing to do except wait. He had conversations with the seemingly jovial prison director, but that was the extent of his communication.

Until one day, Phillip was marched through Checkpoint Charlie to freedom in West Berlin, while a Communist agent was marched from West to East.

When Phillip Marsden realized who that agent was–and what it meant for his life–he knew he had to get back to East Berlin and perform a rescue.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., we delve into the machinations of the JFK administration, watching as they quarrel amongst themselves, work out solutions, and ultimately, have to put their trust in bombastic former General Lucius Clay in Berlin. The way the Kennedy White House transfers on-site control to Clay–and the way Clay goes eyeball to eyeball with his East Berlin counterparts–could make a novel in itself.

Meanwhile, Phillip finds an unlikely ally in his rescue mission, a mission which seems to unravel almost from the beginning. He’s in a foreign land, and he doesn’t know who he can trust, if anyone, or even whether he’ll ever make it out alive.

There are so many beautifully set-up, beautifully realized scenes in “The Kennedy Imperative,” that it makes for a fast, rewarding read. The problem is, to mention them here would be tantamount to spoiling the novel, so I can’t really describe much more.

I can tell you that author Leon Berger has written one hell of a book, a sort of hybrid between Tom Clancy and James Ellroy. Like Clancy, Berger deals with all manner of political and military intrigue, and he has obviously done extensive research into both fields.

Like James Ellroy, Berger seamlessly mixes actual historical figures–JFK, RFK, General Clay–with equally believable (sometimes more so) fictional characters.

The main story in this book–Phillip Marsden and his missions–are fiction. The backdrop happened. It takes a great author to weave them together, and Leon Berger is that author.

I can’t wait to read volumes two and three in the trilogy. I suspect, having read “The Kennedy Imperative,” that they will be equally intriguing.

Highly Recommended

(nb: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley)


About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
This entry was posted in Books, Books Read in 2014, History, Literary or Genre Fiction, Mysteries/Thrillers, series. Bookmark the permalink.

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