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Katherine Reay | Conversations in Character with Luisa Voekler


The Berlin Letters
Katherine Reay

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A Cold War Novel


March 2024
On Sale: March 5, 2024
Featuring: Luisa Voekler; Haris Voekler
384 pages
ISBN: 1400243068
EAN: 9781400243068
Kindle: B0CBH3L4H4
Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Katherine Reay:
The Berlin Letters, March 2024
A Shadow in Moscow, June 2023
The Printed Letter Bookshop, May 2019
The Austen Escape, November 2017

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Book Title: THE BERLIN LETTERS

Character Name: Luisa Voekler

 

How would you describe your family or your childhood?

Dull. Or maybe gray is a more appropriate description. I was raised by my grandparents, who brought me from West Berlin, and they were afraid in many ways and that translated into strict rules for me and, for what I imagined to be, little fun. But I can’t discount the love they showered on me - they even left West Berlin just to give me a better life. I also can’t forget the fun riddles and puzzles my Opa constantly created for me. I guess I shouldn’t be too critical about my childhood. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

 

What was your greatest talent?

I suppose cracking all those riddles, codes, and puzzles my Opa made for me. I couldn’t find a birthday gift without solving a complicated maze of clues. It was fun, really, and I loved him for making all those efforts to spend time with me. Now - it’s my career. It’s odd, but true - my childhood game and the acumen I developed has turned into an amazing profession at the CIA. Most days on the job don’t feel like work to me.

 

Significant other?

Not at present, but… Following college, I was accepted into clandestine training for the CIA and I met a guy there. Daniel Rudd. He was absolutely amazing. Everyone was drawn to him and, for some reason, he was drawn to me. The tantalizing promise of him and of what we could become was intoxicating. But our paths went different directions - well, that’s not true, I shut him out. Yet a day hasn’t passed that I haven’t wondered about him, about us, and about what could have been.

 

Biggest challenge in relationships?

It might be trusting people, or perhaps it’s my constant doubt that I’m not good enough, or maybe it’s that CIA guy, Daniel, that no one else measures up to. Hmmm… That’s all getting rather deep - let's go with the fact that I have a hard time trusting people.

 

Where do you live?

I’m back in my childhood bedroom now. I just moved home to help Oma after Opa died a few months ago. Our house is in a wonderful old neighborhood called Cleveland Park, right in Washington DC. It has rolling hills, great homes built in the early twentieth century, and neighbors who care about each other. While I wish I didn’t feel like I was moving back in time rather than forward, this is a pretty nice place to be.

 

Do you have any enemies?

Not that I know of, but considering the fact that I’m about to fly to East Berlin to try to break my father out of a Stasi jail, I bet I’ll make some soon.

 

How do you feel about the place where you are now? Is there something you are particularly attached to, or particularly repelled by, in this place?

That’s a tough one…. While I am attached to DC and my family here, I need to put all that behind me and focus on the days ahead. If all goes well, I’ll land in West Berlin in a day or two and sneak through the Wall to the East. I won’t deny I’m nervous. I won’t deny I might not come back.

As for the word “repelled” - that’s relevant now too. So much of what I’ve read in my father’s letters repels, disturbs, and even terrifies me. He’s experienced such pain and loss, and endures incredibly daily strictures in East Berlin, not to mention the fact he's languishing in a Stasi jail right now. I have no idea what they are doing to him, or if he is even still alive.

 

Do you have children, pets, both, or neither?

I would love to have children and pets. Right now, I have neither. My friend at work, Carrie, is about to have her first child and I love hearing about all she’s going through and I love how she glows when she talks about the baby. It’ll happen for me. I know it will. Every day I feel like I’m coming back to myself, reclaiming a little of that bravery I lost when I was cut from the CIA’s clandestine training group and placed in my current position. Now I know all was not as it seemed back then and that has helped me let go of what I perceived to be my own failures. Maybe with all this new self-confidence I’ll go find Daniel Rudd someday and see what he’s up to…

 

What do you do for a living?

Promise not to tell? I’m part of a top-secret CIA code-breaking team called Venona II. The first Venona Project started in 1943 and wasn’t shut down until 1980, but secretly it was thought there was still information to be gained from the old Soviet and German codes so my boss took us off the books, housed us in a secret office in Arlington, and tasked us to keep breaking into those codes. The first Venona Project was responsible for uncovering Kim Philby and Don Mclean, which helped bring down the whole Cambridge Five spy-ring, Soviet infiltration of the Manhattan Project, Klaus Fuch, Alger Hiss, Alan May, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and many other of the “famous” spy names we know today.

 

Greatest disappointment?

I may have hinted at this, but I made it into the CIA’s best clandestine training unit and spent several months at the Farm. Then, one day, I was sent down. I never knew why. It broke me in many ways and only now am I beginning to see that brave woman within me again. I’ve also just discovered it wasn’t my failure that got me dropped from the program.

 

Greatest source of joy?

It seems silly or small, but I just had a conversation with my Aunt Alice that has changed everything for me. I didn’t think she cared about me at all, but I didn’t understand her. I didn’t understand her life in East Germany before she moved to Washington DC and all the secrets she carried. I may not know them all now, but I know enough and it feels like a bright light has turned on, flooding me with hope. It sounds corny, but I’ve always kinda worshiped my aunt so the fact that she really does love me is a really big deal. It’s remarkable that one conversation can turn me from a thirty-one year old woman into a happy dancing child.

 

What do you do to entertain yourself or have fun?

I love going to the movies. I love music. I love Fall days when the leaves change. I love singing at the top of my lungs despite not being able to carry a tune. I love when my co-workers and I go out every Friday night after work. We don’t share our work during the week - all sorts of confidentiality agreements against that - but those women are so fascinating and fun, and those Friday evenings are amazing. There are lots of things I love to do that are light and fun and, sometimes, I forget to do them.

 

What keeps you awake at night?

I have had a recurring nightmare since I was a young child. I am warm and safe then I am flying for the briefest moment before the world turns into pain, blood, and darkness. I don’t know what that’s about, but it keeps me awake at night. Recently, however, the dream has become even more sharp and detailed - I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not a bad dream at all, but a bad memory.

 

What is the most pressing problem you have at the moment?

I am in possession of coded messages I need to turn over to my boss at the CIA. However, if I do, I won’t be able to do anything to help my father. So my most pressing problem is - Do I make a run for it and try to get into East Berlin? Without any CIA help? And, if I actually manage to get there, how do I break my father out of a Stasi prison? And, if all that goes well, how much jail time might I face? At the very least, I expect I’ll be fired.

 

Is there something that you need or want that you don’t have? For yourself or for someone important to you?

I would like a solid plan, diplomatic papers, or something - anything - to get my father out of East Berlin alive. Heck, if I could bring the whole Berlin Wall down I would. My boss at the CIA says tensions are too high in Europe right now for any official action on my father’s behalf. He wants me to wait a few months before the CIA will assess the situation. But I don’t have that time. My understanding is that my father will be moved to a new facility on Friday, November 10th, and that will be the end of him. So despite needing a plan and time to put all the details into motion, I simply need to go. Now.

THE BERLIN LETTERS by Katherine Reay

The Berlin Letters

A Cold War Novel

 

Bestselling author Katherine Reay returns with an unforgettable tale of the Cold War and a CIA code breaker who risks everything to free her father from an East German prison.

From the time she was a young girl, Luisa Voekler has loved solving puzzles and cracking codes. Brilliant and logical, she’s expected to quickly climb the career ladder at the CIA. But while her coworkers have moved on to thrilling Cold War assignments—especially in the exhilarating era of the late 1980s—Luisa’s work remains stuck in the past decoding messages from World War II.

Journalist Haris Voekler grew up a proud East Berliner. But as his eyes open to the realities of postwar East Germany, he realizes that the Soviet promises of a better future are not coming to fruition. After the Berlin Wall goes up, Haris finds himself separated from his young daughter and all alone after his wife dies. There’s only one way to reach his family—by sending coded letters to his father-in-law who lives on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

When Luisa Voekler discovers a secret cache of letters written by the father she has long presumed dead, she learns the truth about her grandfather’s work, her father’s identity, and why she has never progressed in her career. With little more than a rudimentary plan and hope, she journeys to Berlin and risks everything to free her father and get him out of East Berlin alive.

As Luisa and Haris take turns telling their stories, events speed toward one of the twentieth century’s most dramatic moments—the fall of the Berlin Wall and that night’s promise of freedom, truth, and reconciliation for those who lived, for twenty-eight years, behind the bleak shadow of the Iron Curtain’s most iconic symbol.

 

Thriller Spy | Historical [1000 Words A Day Press, On Sale: March 5, 2024, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781400243068 / eISBN: 9781400243075]

Buy THE BERLIN LETTERSAmazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Walmart.com | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author who has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books. She publishes both fiction and nonfiction, holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and three children. Follow Katherine on Instagram, Facebook and her personal website here.

WEBSITE | GOODREADS | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM

 

 

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