Operation Blackbird: A Cold War Spy Novel (Brass Compass Series)

Written by Ellen Butler
Review by Peter Clenott

The war in Ukraine has rekindled memories of the Cold War between West and East. In Ellen Butler’s Operation Blackbird, we are drawn back to that time and place when Berlin was divided in half, the Allied West and the Communist East. Operation Blackbird is a tale of espionage in that moment in history just after World War II when antagonists in the brewing Cold War were trying to entice German scientists and spymasters to choose sides in a high-stakes and dangerous game of geopolitical one-upmanship.

Miriam Becker is her real name, but she adopts many others. It’s part of her job as an undercover agent for the OSS. Danger comes with the territory, and she is a highly regarded agent. When a prized Russian scientist, coveted by the West, lets it be known that he wants to emigrate to the United States, Miriam is recruited by childhood friend Jacob Devlin to sneak him out of East Berlin, through enemy lines, to freedom. Of course, things never go as planned.

Author Butler knows her stuff as if she herself has served with the CIA. Her attention to detail befits a spy who must be observant of human nuances to survive. Miriam is no James Bond, which is a good thing. She comes across as a regular person, yet one who is blessed with bravery, innovative smarts, and the instincts of a trained operative. She has her allies who will protect her and her enemies who would kill her. Her team is betrayed. The man she is coming to love disappears, and she must act and survive on her own wits.

I recommend Operation Blackbird for those who envision themselves as Miriam Beckers: a modest young woman who will do whatever she must to serve her country.