On his wedding day in 1976, Viktor Moroz stumbles upon a murder scene: two gay men, one of them a U.S. official, have been axed to death in Moscow. Viktor, a Jewish refusenik, is stuck in the Soviet Union because the government has denied his application to leave for Israel; he sits “in refusal” alongside his wife and their group of intellectuals, Jewish and not. But the KGB spots Viktor leaving the murder scene. Plucked off the street, he’s given a choice: find the murderer or become the suspect of convenience. His deadline is nine days later, when Henry Kissinger will be arriving in Moscow. Unsolved ax murders, it seems, aren’t good for politics.
A whip-smart, often hilarious Cold War thriller, Paul Goldberg’s The Dissident explores what it means to survive in the face of impossible choices and monumental consequences. To help solve the case, Viktor ropes in his community, which includes his banned-text-distributing wife, a hard-drinking sculptor, a Russian priest of Jewish heritage, and a visiting American intent on reliving World War II heroics. As Viktor struggles to determine whom to trust, he’s forced to question not only the KGB’s murky motives but also those of his fellow refuseniks—and the man he admires above all: Kissinger himself.
Immersive, unpredictable, and always ax-sharp, The Dissident is Cold War intrigue at its most inventive. It is an uncompromising look at sacrifice, community, and the scars of history and identity, from an expert storyteller.
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