'Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy'
Ben Macintyre, one of the finest writers on spies and international espionage, presents Ursula Beurton, née Kuczynski, code name Agent Sonya. Born in 1907 to a wealthy, left-leaning German Jewish family, Kuczynski joined the Communist Party in her teens and became, in time, “a mother, housewife, novelist, expert radio technician, spymaster, courier, saboteur, bomb-maker, Cold Warrior and secret agent.” She had three children by three different men, all spies. She eluded the Chinese and Japanese secret police, the Nazis, MI5, MI6 and the FBI. Her work aided the Allies during World War II, but her loyalty was to international communism and the Soviet Union. After the war and settled in England, she funneled highly classified material to the Soviets, including essential details for making the atomic bomb. Her success in evading detection owed in great part to MI5’s ingrained sexism: The sole woman among the analysts suspected her but was routinely ignored. Macintyre delivers this immensely exciting, fast-moving account in the calm, engaging voice of a connoisseur of spy craft. (Random House Audio, Unabridged, 14¼ hours)
Tana French sets her eighth novel in a tiny village in western Ireland where retired Chicago cop Cal Hooper has come to find peace, good fishing and time to figure things out. At least the fishing lives up to expectations. Soon, however, he is dragged into 12-year-old Trey Reddy’s search for a brother who went missing some six months previously. Cal’s inquiries are met with weirdness and obscure warnings, and he senses that he has entered territory that, though sociable enough on the surface, abounds in treachery and dark secrets below. Sheep are being mysteriously killed and mutilated; furtive figures lurk in the night. French’s evocation of place, a rural way of life and overall creepiness are superb, as is the dialogue, a festival of Irish raillery and repartee. American-born, Irish-raised Roger Clark narrates the book, and his performance is spot on, not only in his rendering of the American and other characters of different ages and gender, but also in the pacing and brio with which he delivers Irish badinage. (Penguin Audio, Unabridged, 20 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.