Reviews

 

Forbes


Who cares if the pilot never turns off the seat-belt light? You've got your spring vacation reading right here, and by the time you look up, they'll be opening  the doors.


Tom Gabbay, a former television comedy writer and producer at NBC, sets the carousel going on this suspense ride as his tough guy/stuntman/lady- killer character, Jack Teller, is hired by a Marlene Dietrich--like actress to accompany her to war-torn 1940 Europe. In a Lisbon crawling with Gestapo agents, frantic refugees and various ne'er-do-wells of uncertain allegiance, the actress is seeking a lost childhood friend, a quest that has already resulted in the spectacular death of Teller's predecessor--perhaps at the hands of the friend herself.


The many pitfalls in Teller's path include a leather-corset-clad Wallis Warfield Simpson, who lures him into a night of B&D while the Duke of Windsor is out whooping it up with his Nazi-schmoozing pals. Anything for the cause. … Gabbay serves it all up with Raymond Chandler--esque dark humor, a rich sense of place and a fine feel for the yawning chasm between those privileged to float above the exigencies of that dark time and those who were engulfed in its horrors.

 
 

   The Rocky Mountain News


If you're wondering what to do with that gift card from a bookstore you just received, I suggest newcomer Tom Gabbay's first book. It's the perfect antidote to the mid-winter blahs, combining the secret Cold War world of John Le Carre with the fast-paced paranoia and violence of Robert Ludlum - a spy novel of the first rank.


Set in 1963, the story covers five days in Berlin in the summer of that year. Jack Teller, disillusioned by the Bay of Pigs fiasco, has retired from the CIA. Now he lives on the beach in Florida where he is writing a bad novel and fishing even worse. Teller had left Germany as a young boy in 1927. Now he's being called back by the Agency because someone behind the Iron Curtain is asking for Jack Teller in person. Apparently, they have important information they will only give to him.


Reluctantly, he flies to Berlin. Things don't go well at first as the local spooks insist on shadowing Teller as he attempts a meeting with the mystery man. Eventually, though, Teller manages to elude his handlers and make contact with an East German colonel in Intelligence.


The information he gives to Teller is too much to believe. It seems there's a plot to kill President Kennedy during his visit to Berlin in only a few days. Teller is also told that the plot is coming from the CIA, which is planning to blame the Communists for the assassination.


Teller dutifully tells his former boss what he has learned and is told to forget such crazy tales. But Teller knows what the CIA thinks of Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs, and he realizes what might sound absurd to normal people is precisely the kind of thing others might think up.


Now Teller is on his own in a foreign city, trying to track down

killers that are after him too. His only ally appears to be the enemy.


Using Kennedy conspiracy theories may not be a new plot device, but Gabbay tells such an engaging and fast-paced tale it doesn't matter. Add a new and adept name to the must-read list of thriller writers.



Publishers Weekly


Wallowing in a post–Bay of Pigs funk, ex-CIA agent Jack Teller is called out of retirement in 1963 and sent to Berlin to meet an East German agent with a message for Jack's ears only in the debut of screenwriter and former TV producer  Gabbay. Jack is floored by both his contact's identity and his information about a plot to kill President Kennedy during an  upcoming visit to West Berlin. His dormant idealism roused, Jack delves into the conspiracy while dodging the threats of corrupt CIA higherups and falling in with colorful residents of Berlin's Cold War demimonde. Mixing cynical world-weariness  with dead-pan humor and a refreshing lack of Bond-style omnicompetence (random mishaps include a nasty dog bite and a  disastrous attempt to shoot off a pair of handcuffs),


Jack's story is part John le Carré and part Elmore Leonard. Gabbay constructs  the thriller as a dress rehearsal and what-if scenario for the actual Dallas assassination. With rogue intelligence operatives,  gangsters, Texas tycoons and a mob of snipers, coverup hit men, fall guys, fall guy impersonators, and miscellaneous functionaries  all jostling each other, the plot's many moving parts make the climax a virtual parody of ponderous JFK conspiracy theories.  But until this odd turn, Gabbay offers a stylish thriller with an appealing hero. 



Tampa Bay Tribune:


Clever Thriller About Cold War In Germany An Early Favorite For Best Debut Of Year


Cold War novels have been a dying breed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in their time, the genre spawned classic spy thrillers by such authors as John Le Carre and Len Deighton. Today they are almost a novelty. Yet, after reading this one, I cannot recall a more clever thriller about the Cold War in Germany and a plot to assassinate President Kennedy.


The year is 1963. Jack Teller, an ex-CIA agent, is called out of retirement to meet with a Stasi officer who claims to have vital information that he will give Teller and no one else. After much subterfuge, the two meet and the message is passed on. It states there is a plot to assassinate Kennedy in Berlin. The result could be catastrophic, especially if the Russians are blamed. Teller must try to unmask the plot and very possibly save the world from a nuclear war.


From time to time, there appears a first-time author with a sure, strong voice and the innate ability to tell a compelling story without getting bogged down by details and minutiae. Tom Gabbay hits a homer his first time at bat. Not only is the plot compelling, but it also rings with authenticity.


Teller's attempt to prevent the death of the president brings immediately to mind one of the greatest thrillers ever written: "The Day of the Jackal." That, along with realistic characters and a rollicking plot, makes this one of the early favorites for best debut of the year.



San Francisco Chronicle:


If you've been wondering what it would be like if Carl Hiaasen took a crack at a John le Carre spy novel, wonder no more. Tom Gabbay's The Berlin Conspiracy (Morrow; 294 pages; $24.95) mixes the insouciant breeziness of Hiaasen with all the grim Cold War trappings of le Carre.


The result works surprisingly well.


It's 1963, and Jack Teller is an ex-CIA spook now kicking back on the Florida coast. He's bitter about the Bay of Pigs fiasco -- idealism is Teller's weak spot -- and basically wants nothing more to do with spying.


Then comes a summons from his old boss at the agency, who says Teller has been specifically requested to meet with a mysterious East German official in Berlin. Back in action, Teller learns from the source that a plot is being cooked up to assassinate President Kennedy during his forthcoming visit to West Berlin. Worse, it looks as if the Americans, not the Soviets, are behind the scheme.


Anyone who saw Oliver Stone's "JFK" knows what's coming. Teller learns that sinister forces within the U.S. government see Kennedy as a threat to their anti-communist designs, and in turn have decided to get rid of the president and make it look as if a lone gunman were responsible for the killing.


It won't be spoiling anything to say that Teller foils the plot (which, as we know, will be attempted again in Dallas not long afterward). The fun of "The Berlin Conspiracy," and it is fun, lies in Teller's transformation from wisecracking miscreant to reluctant hero, and in the colorful characters he encounters along the way.


Gabbay, a former TV exec writing his first novel, does a fine job of depicting Berlin in the throes of the Cold War and of making the well-seasoned stew of Kennedy conspiracy theories seem fresh and topical. As with Stone's movie, a plausible case is made for why assorted interests would feel threatened by the youthful president, and how a conspiracy would be pulled off.


It may not be any more believable now, but it still gets you thinking.  


 
                                       Publishers Weekly


Gabbay's winning third thriller to feature CIA spook Jack Teller (after The Lisbon Crossing) focuses on Iran during two pivotal years: 1953, when a mistake-laden covert CIA operation overthrew the nation's prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and 1979, during the chaos of the Islamic revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini's rise to power. In 1953, as a naïve Company recruit, Teller befriends an idealistic Iranian government official, Yari Fatemi, only to be manipulated into betraying him and his family. In 1979, when Yari's sister shows up in New York and informs Teller that her brother is in jail awaiting certain execution, Teller feels compelled to return to Iran in a suicidal attempt to save Yari. Powered by relentless pacing and a story line abounding in subterfuge, treachery and subversion, this Ludlumesque page-turner offers invaluable historical insights into the turbulent relationship between America (“the Great Satan”) and Iran.



 

 


The Rocky Mountain News


The year is 1940, and the war in Europe is building to a crescendo. Jack Teller is a former gangster, bit actor, stand-in and sometime lover and friend of beautiful Hollywood star Lili Sterne. Jack finds himself in Lisbon as Lili's escort as she attempts to find a lost childhood friend named Eva Lange, who may or may not be a German spy. A private eye in Lili's employ who had been searching for Eva has met a gruesome end. As stand-in gumshoe, Jack's going to need all the skills he can muster - and a heaping helping of luck - to stay alive and unravel the story of Eva Lange.


Final word: Gabbay has taken on the mantle of countless previous WWII thriller writers and has done them proud with a hairpin plot and believable suspense.


Book of the Month Club


I had never heard of author Tom Gabbay, but after reading The Lisbon Crossing he's now on my list of authors to watch. This book has everything you'd want in a thriller: A flawed hero who always lands on his feet. Check. A femme fatale who's as quick with a quip as she is with a gun. Check.  An evil Nazi just steps behind who kills them both. Double-check. Throw into the mix an aging movie star, the Duke of Windsor and his scheming wife, and the seedy streets of Portugal and you've got the next novel you won't be able to put down.


Aging screen idol Lili Sterne wants stuntman Jack Teller to find her childhood friend Eva, a German exile who may be hiding in Lisbon from the Nazis. It doesn't bode well for Jack that the last P.I. sent to find Lili was found dead with the head of German intelligence stuffed into his car's trunk. From here the mystery only deepens with a thrilling climax in Paris that could change the course of WWII. If you love detective stories then you should pick up The Lisbon Crossing...it's like Dashiell Hammett reincarnated.



Mystery Scene Magazine


Any time an author can bring a reader into another time and place with a single phrase, especially if that phrase occurs in the book's first sentence, you know you're in good hands. So it is with Tom Gabbay in his second novel, The Lisbon Crossing. And the phrase? "I lit a Lucky.”


Set in 1940, the action begins in Los Angeles, specifically Hollywood, then moves swiftly on to Europe, where Hitler has just sent the Nazi Army into Paris. Protagonist Jack Teller, whose most recent job was stunt double for Errol Flynn, accompanies Lili Stern (fictional ringer for Marlene Dietrich) to war-neutral Portugal to rescue her childhood friend Eva Lange, an escapee from and possible spy for the Third Reich. Jack is a man of many talents, and he gets to use most of them in this swiftly moving story that proceeds with all the twists, turns and intrigue that anyone could want from a spy novel. The cast of colorful characters includes two from real life, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. From Lisbon the action moves to Paris for a tense and satisfyingly inevitable conclusion. There is simply nothing not to like in this book, the first I've read by Gabbay. It will not be the last.

The Baltimore Sun:


In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech to a throng of ardent well-wishers as he visited both sides of the Berlin Wall. Would it have been a perfect place to assassinate him? That's the question Tom Gabbay, a veteran TV network executive, poses in this enjoyable debut thriller.


What makes The Berlin Conspiracy rise above the usual JFK conspiracy fodder is its slightly subversive streak, mostly due to the conversational, almost over-the-top voice of CIA spy Jack Teller. After a decade of covert assignments, he has retired to fish in Florida and try his hand at mystery writing when he's summoned to Berlin to meet with a shadowy operative who clues him in on the assassination attempt. Shocking as the news is, Teller's days get worse when the double-crosses, betrayals and beatings mount until - you guessed it - he's the only one who can save the world from nuclear doom.


Teller is no super-spy - would James Bond have allowed himself to stand dribbling blood after a dog attacked him? - and his cynical humor makes him an appealing protagonist. The Berlin Conspiracy isn't always plausible, but it's a hell of a good time. 


Nancy Pearl (NPR's Morning Edition)  Listen


The Berlin Conspiracy...is a dandy thriller that anyone who has any doubts about the official (i.e., the Warren Commission's) conclusions about the death of President John F. Kennedy will enjoy. Disgruntled ex-CIA agent Jack Teller is sent to Berlin in the fall of 1963, where an East German government official has indicated that he has important information for the U.S. about a pending plot to kill the president, and will talk only to Jack. Page-turningly plausible, you'll find yourself wondering where Gabbay got his inside knowledge from.


Barnes and Noble:


Tom Gabbay's debut novel, a Cold War thriller revolving around John F. Kennedy's historic visit to Berlin in 1963, is nothing short of an espionage masterwork -- comparable to the very best from heavyweights like John le Carré, Ken Follett, and Robert Ludlum.


Jack Teller is a former CIA operative who quit the Company after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961. Living a relatively quiet life in South Florida, Teller finds his peaceful retirement interrupted when his former mentor and boss, Sam Clay, contacts him with some extraordinary news. Just days before JFK's scheduled speech near the Berlin Wall, the Berlin station of the CIA receives a message from a high-ranking officer in the East German secret police with critically important information that he will only reveal to Teller. When the former CIA op arrives in Berlin and eventually meets with the elusive contact -- a colonel in the infamous Ministry for State Security -- he is confronted with extremely unsettling intelligence: a plot to assassinate JFK in Berlin that has originated from within the United States government. With no one he can trust and with the future of humankind at stake, Teller must somehow find a way to stop the assassination attempt…


Replete with enough subterfuge, deceit, treachery, subversion, and betrayal to satisfy even the most discriminating aficionado of spy novels, Gabbay's debut -- a superbly plotted and wildly provocative tour de force -- will have fans of political thrillers and conspiracy theorists alike blissfully engrossed until the very last page and well beyond.