Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman Book Review
The lowdown from Goodreads
Publication Date July 3, 2018
West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.
Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman Book Review
Safe Houses contains storylines between past and present & Dan Fesperman writes them in a way that they play into one another perfectly. While reading, questions start fluttering around in your mind about the future storyline. As the book goes on, the two stories become more tightly wound. For me, the 1970’s Berlin portion was the more fascinating of the two – I loved reading about the politics of Europe at that time.
Suspense & a Badass Woman Named Helen
The suspense and adventure in Safe Houses are right up my alley. Descriptions of places bring me right into the moment with the characters. I want to go back in time and be a woman like Helen! She’s in a position meant to keep her out of the major action but she ends up being the most badass women in the Berlin station. She is a principled woman who is willing to risk it all. I really admire this character.
I am Really Into This book! Safe Houses is a very thrilling & compelling read that got my heart racing.
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Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to 30 countries and three war zones, beginning with the Persian Gulf War in 1991. But it was his introductory trip to the besieged city of Sarajevo in January 1994 that inspired his first novel, Lie in the Dark. In the ensuing years he has drawn on the exotica and intrigue of similarly far flung locales for setting, character and plot.
He grew up in North Carolina, where he was educated in the public schools of Charlotte before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Anyone wondering about the university’s influence, particularly with regard to basketball, need only consult page 67 of The Small Boat of Great Sorrows (p. 79 in the UK edition).
As a journalist he worked at the Fayetteville (N.C.) Times, Durham Morning Herald, Charlotte News, Miami Herald, and The Sun and Evening Sun of Baltimore, contributing heartily to the eventual insolvency of two of those newspapers. But it was the Sun which catered most grandly to his wanderlust. Baltimore editors dispatched him to cover the Gulf War from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; then sent him to Berlin to run the paper’s Europe bureau during the years of the Yugoslav civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia; and in 2001 assigned him to cover events in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11. Along the way he also reported from throughout the rest of Europe and the Middle East.
Memories of his three years in Germany eventually helped inspire The Arms Maker of Berlin, and his occasional travels to the Middle East deeply influenced The Amateur Spy. More recent travels, which he now does on his own dime, have contributed to his research for The Prisoner of Guantanamo (where he was a visitor, not an inmate) and Layover in Dubai. But the biggest influence on The Double Game was his longtime enthusiam for espionage novels, particularly the classics of the Cold War era.
His work abroad has come with a fair share of adventures, not the least of which include accepting the surrender, along with a colleague, of 10 forlorn and unarmed Iraqi soldiers in the Kuwaiti desert in 1991, and surviving a fatal ambush on a convoy of journalists traveling through Afghanistan in November 2001. (For details on both, read Dispatches).
Other than sheer laziness, it is hard to say with any accuracy what took him so long to begin writing any fiction apart from the occasional short story, usually of the variety routinely savaged by writing workshops. He has written those off and on since the age of 20, but didn’t begin his first novel until he was 38. Hoping to make up for lost time, he plans to be well over the hill by 65.
Unlike Skelly, the American correspondent depicted in The Warlord’s Son, Dan’s occasional vagabond existence has not rendered him too restless for steadfast marriage and fatherhood. Since 1988 he has been married to Liz Bowie, also a journalist, and they live in Baltimore. Their children, Emma and Will, have graduated from college and are making their mark at home and abroad.