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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.