Defectors by Joseph Kanon (Simon and Schuster)

This novel, set in Russia in 1961, brilliantly conjures up a world of fear, suspicion and betrayal surrounding a group British and American spies who defected at the height of the Cold War.

The story focuses on Simon Weeks, a former State Department officer who was forced to resign some years earlier when his brother, CIA agent Frank, defected to the Soviet Union.

Simon, now a successful New York publisher, get a surprising invitation from a Soviet agency to visit Russia to publish his brother's memoirs. It is an opportunity to see again the brother he hero-worshipped growing up - and to try to understand what motivated him to betray his country, colleagues and family.

There is a lot of dialogue in this book and you really need to read it in longish sessions to get into its rhythm. Do that and you will be rewarded by a chilling tale, where words spoken often have two meanings.

There is some fairly underplayed violence but the emphasis is more on character. And, as you might expect from a story featuring spies, things are rarely as they seem and there are some great twists and turns along the way.