Assignment Potsdam; Countdown To War

Colonel McDesmond Series Book One

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
347 Pages
Reviewed on 12/15/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Carmen Tenorio for Readers' Favorite

Assignment Potsdam: Countdown to War: Colonel McDesmond Series book one is set in Berlin, Germany, in 1961 during the Cold War. Author Charlie FitzGerald writes about the valiant US Army Colonel Gerard "Mac" McDesmond, who serves as the Chief of the United States Military Liaison Mission (USMLM), the only authorized military outpost to operate in East Germany and behind Russia's Iron Curtain. The story centers around Mac's dangerous work, vigilantly monitoring and protecting US interests as he deftly navigates his way through a divided Cold War Germany and Eastern Europe, whilst being sensitive to accusations of territorial intrusion or spying on restricted areas, which may result in the death penalty. With the help of his trusted Soviet and East German allies, they must astutely put their lives at risk to maintain the balance of power, often threatened by both sides utilizing a swarm of double agents, outright traitors, murders, kidnappings, sexual assaults, or coups that are meant to skew dominance in favor of either the USSR and its socialist league in Europe or the US and its Western allies. It's also vital for Mac to find microdot secret messages quickly, knowing they contain information that can trigger another World War; messages related to Kruschev's assassination and the overthrow of Kennedy, both hatched by ambitious, corrupt players who want to take over the reins and privileges of the Cold War's political power struggle between the US and Soviet Russia.

Charlie Fitzgerald weaves a strong story in a compelling and fast-paced page-turner that covers a lot of ground and has several unexpected, pulse-pounding, and riveting moments full of action. Major and minor characters stand out and have their own back story, motivations, and goals, which are explored in-depth and used to add layers and dimension to the plot. Because many of the circumstances and details are accurate and based on real life, including some experienced by the author, Assignment Potsdam is engaging, realistic, and plausible. Its well-articulated and clever dialogues, which sometimes contain short but expressive Slavic and German vernacular, help in portraying the mental and emotional footing and level of tension that a character or a scene needs to help build the story's intense plot. The author's skillful writing and use of figurative language are effective and descriptive enough to have the reader instantly visualize a scene, some of which can give you a good chuckle when the author's deadpan humor is unexpectedly inserted or mixed in it, despite the generally serious tone and occasional atmosphere of dread. Fans of military, espionage, and thrillers should definitely check this book out. It is a worthy adventure with our heroic Mac McDesmond, so go ahead, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

Grant Leishman

Assignment Potsdam: Countdown to War: Colonel McDesmond Series Book 1 by Charlie FitzGerald is a post-World War Two espionage story about the Cold War that played out between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, especially in a small enclave of Berlin in East Germany. When U.S. Army Colonel Gerard “Mac” McDesmond is appointed as the head of the United States Military Liaison Mission based in Berlin, he has no idea of the nest of vipers he is walking into. Between double agents, Soviet assassins, an aging Soviet pervert who is kidnapping, raping, and murdering young German women, various assassination plots of Soviet and American leaders, and an alcoholic wife and three children to worry about, Mac’s hands are going to be well and truly full. His mission in East Germany is to gather intelligence for the United States on the military build-up of both Soviet and East German forces in the region and their plans. With events moving so fast in Berlin, can Mac and his team keep up with all that is happening and prevent events that could precipitate a military response from either the Kremlin or Washington, heralding the beginning of World War III?

Assignment Potsdam is an old-school spy story, much of which is rooted in actual events that occurred at that time. Author Charlie Fitzgerald has done a superb job of weaving historical facts and events, with his tale of the deeply flawed but highly effective head of USMLM, Colonel Mac McDesmond. I particularly appreciated the author’s insight into the issues faced by all servicemen abroad at the time; alcohol abuse and sexual dalliances. The alcohol abuse was a major factor in both Mac and his wife’s lives and I liked that the author was prepared to allow his characters to own this aspect of their lives. The twists and turns are wonderfully brought together and despite knowing the historical outcome of many of the events, as a reader, I was still genuinely surprised and fooled by some of the author’s deceptions and red herrings. What made this period even more interesting, and the author makes the point of building this into his story, was the dangers faced by both sides in allowing the industrial-military complex to become so powerful in its decision-making ability that it effectively overrides or supersedes the will of the majority. This is a multi-faceted story with excellent characterization, hidden depths, and layers that I truly appreciated. I look forward excitedly to reading the next iteration of Mac McDesmond’s thrilling adventures. This is a read I can highly recommend.

Maria Victoria Beltran

Assignment Potsdam: Countdown to War by Charlie FitzGerald is the first installment in the enthralling Colonel McDesmond Series. This historical novel is inspired by real events and is set in East Berlin in the early 1960s. At the height of the Cold War, Colonel McDesmond became chief of the United States Military Liaison Mission (USMLM), which was a covert military spy group based inside East Berlin. He is required to help an East German cop catch a serial killer, find out who kidnapped an attractive U.S. Army senior staff sergeant, locate five CIA agents who disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, and help uncover plots to assassinate Nikita Kruschev. On top of this, he must deal with an alcoholic wife and take care of his children. Failure could mean a third World War.

Charlie FitzGerald’s Assignment Potsdam: Countdown to War is a thought-provoking novel that intensely captures the cloak-and-dagger world of East Berlin during the Cold War. Historically accurate and full of suspense, the story is well-written and the plot is fast-paced. The author reveals the complex post-World War II US-Soviet relationship by effectively establishing the mood, with both historical and fictional characters included in his narrative. Paying great attention to detail, the story is authentically gripping; a genuine page-turner, and an excellent inside view of the dynamics of the US-Soviet relationship at the time. Reading Assignment Potsdam is like being given access to the inner workings of the CIA, the East German government, and the Stasi, as it transports us through experiences that we can’t imagine happening in real life. Fitzgerald has created a tangible experience that should make readers feel like they are fully immersed in the storyline. This is a highly recommended book!

Essien Asian

It is the aftermath of World War Two and the Allied powers are still getting to grips with occupying a partitioned Germany. Distrust is the order of the day as American and Soviet intelligence agencies do their utmost to get the drop on each other. Colonel Gerard McDesmond is new on the scene and trying to build bridges between his United States Military Liaison Mission and his communist partners while simultaneously gathering intelligence. When a United States Army officer disappears while visiting East Germany, he must call on his skills to find answers especially when he discovers a nefarious plot whose success can only lead to another global war. Follow the action in Charlie FitzGerald's Assignment Potsdam: Countdown to War, the first book in the Colonel McDesmond series.

Guns, girls, and propaganda feature prominently in this spy thriller by Charlie FitzGerald. His style of storytelling is unusual, laced with intriguing details as he unfurls his plot like the master storyteller that he is. The attention to detail is perfect as he inserts fictional characters into critical flashpoints in history in such a manner that I had to check the history books just to separate fact from fiction. His character development is impressive and his protagonists are created with origin stories that are realistic and fit into the overall storyline like cogs in a well-oiled machine. Assignment Potsdam harks back to the days of cold war espionage and is a rather impressive attempt on a par with the works of masters such as Frederick Forsyth and John Le Carré. FitzGerald has put together an espionage novel that will stand the test of time.

Keith Mbuya

Colonel Gerard McDesmond had no idea how bad things were when he was posted to Potsdam, East Berlin, to take over as the chief of the United States Military Liaison Mission (USMLM) - the only American intelligence unit allowed to operate in East Germany and behind the iron curtain. In a bid to seize control of Europe and possibly the whole world, Walter Ulbricht - the leader of the East German government - initiated a deadly plan called Operation Blume, which entailed assassinating Khrushchev, the Soviet Union leader. If Operation Blume succeeds, the life of the US president JFK would be on the line and World War III on cue. Unknown to Colonel Mac, Ulbricht’s plan also involves implicating Mac’s long-time friend Marshal Konev - the commander in chief of all soviet forces in Germany. Will Colonel Mac manage to save the world from the impending disaster? Get yourself Charlie FitzGerald’s Assignment Potsdam: Countdown To War, the first installment in the Colonel McDesmond series to discover how it all goes down.

If you are looking for a gripping historical thriller laced with espionage, deceit, loyalty, strategies, power, money, lust, love, sacrifices, deadly secrets, blackmail, abduction, and torture, Charlie FitzGerald’s Assignment Potsdam is just what you need. There are spies, assassins, traitors, defectors, double agents, and dirty deals. Charlie hatches an intriguing plot for this compelling read, featuring an amazing cast and ingenious plot twists. His impressive way of depicting scenes vividly and dramatically made the reading experience more enjoyable. I particularly liked his hilarious depiction of the domestic quarrels between the soldiers. Charlie captures the cultural nuances, mood, and setting in his portrayals. The agony, suffering, and inhumane conditions that the people in the communist states in Europe endured left me heartbroken. Colonel Mac is that type of intelligent, savvy, and brave character whose skill in handling tight situations makes you want more of him. I loved the book. It is a magnificent piece of work and I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series.