FROM THE KIRKUS 'STARRED REVIEW' AND 'BEST OF YEAR' A Czech spy-chief battles the rising Nazi menace in this engrossing thriller." "Major FrantiÅ¡ek Moravec has no experience as a spy when heâ€™s summoned to an important post in Czechoslovakiaâ€™s military intelligence branch. But he does have a shrewd mind, a self-effacing manner that hides a maverick streak, a disillusioned knowledge of human motives and, rarest of all in the low, dishonest decade of the 1930s, he has more than a shred of honor. While he struggles to navigate Pragueâ€™s cynical bureaucracy and whip his underlings into shapeâ€”including an amateur pornographer and an 83-year-old agent who refuses to file reportsâ€”he faces an intelligence nightmare: a surging Nazi Germany that is covertly manipulating German nationalist groups in the Sudetenland with an eye toward adding that Czech territory to the Reich. Moravec relies on a troubled asset, a German-Czech-American schoolteacher with a clouded past and a bitter grudge. And he has a whaleâ€”or maybe a piranhaâ€”of a nemesis in Gestapo chief Reinhardt Heydrich, the epitome of cunning, cruelty and corruption with a cold eye trained on the Sudetenland while fighting murderous turf battles with Hitlerâ€™s other satraps. (The scenes of Nazi factional infighting are a tour-de-force of blood-curdling fun.) This first installment of Xavierâ€™s Moravecâ€™s War series, based on real-life figures and events, has everythingâ€”subtle characters, a great hero, a mesmerizing villain, tense intrigue and action and stylish, psychologically acute prose. Itâ€™s also a rich evocation of pre-war Mitteleuropa, steeped in the atmospherics of high-society soirÃ©es, beer-hall rallies and train-station assignations amid a mood of encroaching, unstoppable tragedy. As Moravec strains to perceive the threats to his country despite the deepening gloom, Xavierâ€™s tale reads like a John le CarrÃ© novel transposed to a geopolitical jungle thatâ€™s far grimmer than the Cold War." "A fine, gripping page-turner infused with a deep historical sensibility."