A Shadow in Moscow: Book Review

As a historical fiction lover, I'm always on the lookout for brand-new historical novels that pack a big punch. I especially enjoy thrilling stories of espionage and intrigue featuring strong female main characters. So when A Shadow in Moscow, a new novel from Katherine Reay, came in the mail I knew I had to dive in right away. As expected, this fast-paced Cold War story was thrilling from chapter one through the final pages.


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A Shadow in Moscow

Quick Look

  • Cold War historical fiction⁣
  • ties to WWII
  • dual POV, dual timeline
  • terrific audiobook narration⁣
  • fast-paced second half⁣
  • immersive and engaging⁣
  • secrets, lies, and family ties

Pub date: ⁣June 13, 2023

Thank you to @TLCbooktours@HarperMuseBooks, and @Libro.fm for the gifted copies!⁣

Publisher's Synopsis

A betrayal at the highest level risks the lives of two courageous female spies: MI6's best Soviet spy and the CIA's newest Moscow recruit. As the KGB closes in, a compromise must be struck if either woman hopes to survive.

Vienna, 1954

After losing everyone she loves in the final days of World War II, Ingrid Bauer agrees to a hasty marriage with a gentle Soviet embassy worker and follows him home to Moscow. But nothing deep within the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime is what it seems, including her new husband, whom Ingrid suspects works for the KGB. Upon her daughter's birth, Ingrid risks everything and reaches out in hope to the one country she understands and trusts--Britain, the country of her mother's birth--and starts passing along intelligence to MI6, navigating a world of secrets and lies, light and shadow.


Part of the Foreign Studies Initiative, Anya Kadinova finishes her degree at Georgetown University and boards her flight home to Moscow, leaving behind the man she loves and a country she's grown to respect. Though raised by dedicated and loyal Soviet parents, Anya soon questions an increasingly oppressive and paranoid Soviet regime at the height of the Cold War. When the KGB murders her bestfriend, Anya picks sides and contacts the CIA. Working in a military research lab, Anya passes along Soviet military plans and schematics in an effort to end the 1980s arms race.

Alternating points of view keep readers on their toes as the past catches up to the present when an unprecedented act of treachery in 1985 threatens all undercover agents operating within the Soviet Union, and both Ingrid and Anya find themselves in a race for their lives against time and the KGB.

The exciting story of two brave female spies in Cold War Moscow

My Review

As an 80s baby, I recall the US/USSR rivalry well. Whether we were competing for gold in the Olympics or listening to leaders discuss nuclear armament, the division between our two cultures was often on display. And though my friends and I didn't truly understand the importance of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I recall watching footage and clapping in unison in our classroom. But I was a sheltered American child, who had no clue what life was like in the Soviet Union.

Now I'm a sheltered American adult struggling to understand life in post-Soviet Europe. Genocide and war rage in Ukraine while Putin clutches to power in Russia, and sometimes it seems like the Cold War never really went away. Spies, intrigue, plots, and coups are still very real things, making this new novel a marvel of historical fiction with very real modern-day implications.

As soon as I started A Shadow in Moscow I knew I was in for a wild ride. I was sucked into both storylines, eager to know what happened to both the brave women standing up for what they felt was right and just. Switching between the audio and physical made this a fast read for me, but I think the pacing would have kept me glued no matter the format.

At the heart of A Shadow in Moscow is the legacy of women in wartime. Both main characters were forced to examine their own actions and decisions through the lens of wartime politics, and both found themselves in the belly of the beast of war. The tie between the two storylines is powerful and left me open-jawed and emotional. What a twist!

The ending felt right for the mood/tone of this novel, but don't expect a HEA. With little romance and far fewer frills, this book is for lovers of heart-pounding spycraft. And I, for one, loved it!

My Rating

A Shadow in Moscow is an un-put-downable historical fiction read that any fan of strong female main characters will love. With ties to WWII and the Cold War, this family drama spans decades full of drama and war. I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy stories of espionage and intrigue.

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About Carlie

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