Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit, by Vaughn Sherman: Spy Versus Spy in Stockholm

Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit ($16.95, 320 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-811-7) is the first novel of Vaughn Sherman, whose plot was inspired by his real-life adventures as a CIA operative in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media.

“An espionage novel with ever widening circles of deceit reminiscent of John le Carré.”
—Bookreporter.com

“Readers will be pleased with Sherman’s unpredictable plot and lively, credible spies. His liberal and detailed inclusion of Swedish history and culture, clandestine work, family dynamics, and the l portrait of Chris’s mother, Mor, are engaging.”
Publishers Weekly

“Smart, gripping and captivating. Vaughn Sherman writes with a depth and authenticity that remind me of John le Carré. I was lured into the story from the first page. Fantastic!”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author of Saint’s Gate

“Written from an insider’s perspective, this poignant look inside the world of spies kept me wondering until the very end.”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author

5 Stars: “Any interest I would have in spy novels is definitely met with the writings by Vaughn Sherman. He is a masterful writer – clearly he is a master in his craft. The novel details so many aspects of the ‘spy world’ that I would never possibly have even considered – the twists and turns are bountiful; the suspense is incredible and I was constantly left on the edge of my seat. I found this book much like a chess game – hurry up and wait.  This was a spy novel based on brains and patience versus (not to sound like other reviewers but I do agree) all the Hollywood spy hype. I was six years old during the time period of this book – although many of the references have real history in them, much of it was new to me. And I love learning history through the addition of fictional elements.  That feature is what causes me to give this a 5 out of 5 star rating. Funny thing – in high school I hated history – but now I gravitate totally to historical fiction etc…and throughout this spy novel the family aspect is intertwined and really allows the novel to be great.”
The Stuff of Success

5 Stars: “This isn’t a story of blazing guns and fearlessness. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of infidelity, deceit, lies, love and truth. Above all else, it’s a story of redemption and atonement. It’s a work of fiction but it’s deep and it feels real.”
The Top Shelf

“I really liked the book, and felt the ending was wrapped up rather nicely. The author, himself a CIA agent, pulled from some of his own experiences in crafting the story. This added a great depth of realism to the story. If you are interested in the spy novels along the lines of James Bond, you won’t find that here. But if you are interested in spy novels set in reality, with the way a real spy would handle his job, I think this should suit you greatly.”
Rhodes Review

“An unpredictable spy novel with a big heart and a resounding ring of authenticity.”
—Robert J. Ray, Author of the Matt Murdock mystery series

“If you’re a fan of classic spy fiction then I suggest you get Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit without delay. As I turned the pages of this book I was reminded of some of the best of them. The Le Carré’s, and Deighton’s; of classic East Vs. West espionage, with a troubled hero and an enigmatic foreign operator.”  Read more ….
—Tonto Williams, Electronic Scrapbook

“A must-read for fans of the spy genre.”
—Howard Ellis, retired CIA

“The world of espionage is filled with deception at every turn. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a novel of mid twentieth century espionage on the backdrop of the Cold War. CIA agent Chris Holbeck is on the trail of KGB officer Sasha Plotkin, surrounding a potential defection that goes awry. Holbeck is split between his duty of tracking Plotkin, and his familial obligations, deciding if his family is worth the decision. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a riveting pick for lovers of espionage fiction, highly recommended.”
—Midwest Book Review

“An amazing look into the world of espionage and the effects it has on a CIA agent’s family. This great spy novel takes place in the 1960s and it is not at all Hollywood-influenced…. Once readers dive into this novel, they will recognize that the storyline is a fast-paced espionage thriller. The plot is character-driven and takes it back to the Nixon Era where it was a much more dangerous time. Author Vaughn provides richly textured and realistic accounts of a CIA agent trying to make a KGB officer defect. Vaughn’s vast knowledge of the genre and the fact that occurrences include real operations of the CIA and true events of the Cold War, it made the story authentically real. The plot delivers a dramatically-inclined storyline through its emotionally-driven characters and builds a one-of-a-kind climax. Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit is a triumphant story that is a must-read for not just fans of the spy genre, but for everyone.” Click here to read more, including Jean’s interview with Vaughn.
—Jean, The Book Nerd

“I liked this book and enjoyed reading it! The author worked for the CIA during the same time period as this story (late 1960’s early 1970’s). His experience and knowledge is evident in giving a realness to the story. I feel that I was given an education in how the real world of national security and counter terrorism and espionage works. It is not how it is portrayed on the big screen; but rather a waiting game requiring patience, counter-moving, wise choices, and knowing the enemy.”
–Annette, Impressions in Ink.

“Even if you’re not old enough to remember the cold war, [Sherman] recreates that world and deftly immerses the reader within it ….this was a story that kept me reading right to the end, and which had me sincerely intrigued as to how it would all work out. The espionage elements were fascinating, as were the political aspects, and I quite appreciated how the story came around to its resolution.”
Beauty in Ruins Blog

It is 1972, and the Soviet Union has succeeded in planting a mole in the top echelons of the Central Intelligence Agency. Three years earlier, CIA officer Chris Holbeck took part in a failed mission to engineer the defection of a Soviet KGB officer who may know the mole’s identity. His name is Sasha Plotkin.

When they were both stationed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969, Chris and Sasha connected on a personal level. Chris was excited to find a KGB officer interested in changing sides. Then, on the day of the Soviet agent’s defection, Sasha was a no-show. Chris would soon discover the full extent of Sasha Plotkin’s deceit.

Now Sasha has resurfaced and wishes to make another attempt to defect. To Chris’ dismay, he is the only CIA officer the man will consent to deal with, even though their once close relationship is now riddled with mistrust. Chris’s wife, Lisa, has sworn to leave him if he abandons her and the family for one more perilous mission. His alluring young colleague Bisan seems determined to seduce him. Despite the risks to his life and his marriage, Chris answers the call of duty.

If Chris succeeds in transporting Sasha to the United States—come hell or high water—will the Soviet agent reveal the true identity of the mole? One thing is certain: the lives of the two men will be forever changed.

Says Vaughn, “After I retired from the CIA I discovered the spy novel genre, and I found that few authors understood that espionage in Cold War times involved mind-game jousting more than shoot-’em-outs and car chases. These novels neglected to depict accurately the challenges for intelligence officers working and living abroad with their families: the secrets to be kept, the absences unexplained, the danger to family members, and the jealousy arising from time spent with colleagues and agents of the opposite sex. The inspiration for Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit originated from an oddity of Swedish history in relation to Russia that I encountered while assigned to Stockholm.”

Vaughn Sherman’s career as a fisheries biologist was cut short when he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. After taking early retirement Vaughn joined in numerous community activities, most involving the governance of non-profit agencies and community colleges. In addition to Sasha’s Plotkin’s Deceit, he has written the memoir of a northwest mariner titled Sea Travels: Memoirs of a Twentieth Century Master Mariner. He has also published three books dealing with the management of non-profits, including Walking the Boardwalk. Click here to find Vaughn online.

Read on for an Excerpt:

Friday dawned much like the day of his last meeting with Plotkin, cold and clear with new snow. Such a pretty day that this time he resolved not to return to the Embassy after signaling Plotkin at NK that the meeting was on. After the safety signal at ten o’clock, he’d go directly home, maybe have a chance to chat with Lisa before lunch.

Upon leaving the Embassy, he noted that the sun hadn’t warmed the air at all. The squeaking snow under his feet confirmed how cold it was as he walked toward his car. The shadows from the trees along Strandvägen weren’t quite as long as they had been last week at this time. Stockholm was on the downhill ride toward spring. In the scant hour he’d been at the Embassy the car had cooled off completely. He let it warm up before driving downtown to wait the few minutes at NK for Plotkin’s safety signal. No policeman this time, and no Plotkin visible in the park. But then he hadn’t seen Plotkin last time, either.

Next he headed west from the city, toward home. Chris enjoyed the drive and was feeling good as he slid to a stop in front of his house. Lisa didn’t reply to his cheery “Hello” when he let himself in through the front door. Now what? Her actions were so strange these days he was afraid she might have taken off without preparing the lunch for Plotkin. A walk through the dining room to the kitchen put his mind at ease. The table was set, and soup was simmering on the stove. She must have walked down to the shopping square for some last minute items. It wasn’t yet ten thirty, and she had no reason to expect him. He went back to the front windows to look down the street, on the chance that he might see her walking back. No Lisa, only a skier heading toward Drottningholm. This castle was located not much more than a mile from their home across Drottningholm Bridge. It was a favorite residence of the royal family and surrounded by a park open to the public. He and Lisa had skied there several times with the children during the Christmas holidays.

An idea struck. Chris went quickly to his bedroom to change into long johns and ski pants, then to the front hall for his ski parka, hat and mittens. Next he went to the garage for his skis. He’d ski down to the square to pick up Lisa and come back with her. Outside the garage door, he slapped his skis down on the new snow and fastened the cable bindings.

Out on the street Chris looked in the direction of the square. Still no Lisa. Nobody, in fact, on the street. In the other direction the skier had long since disappeared. An hour skiing at Drottningholm would probably do him more good than trying to talk with Lisa.

Few people were outdoors on this work and school day. It was terribly cold, but the atmosphere brought some needed peace to Chris. He felt good. The children in their neighborhood were on skis most every afternoon. As he used his poles to push himself along and keep his balance, he thought about how Missy and her friends skied merrily along with no poles. Ah, to be young again!

There was a knoll off the beaten path in the park where somebody had built a small ski jump, maybe a couple of feet high. Probably some of the older boys who lived nearby. Chris thought about trying it.

He’d do it.

Climbing the knoll took more out of him than he’d expected. Wheezing at the top, he made his weekly resolve to start an exercise program. The knoll wasn’t high, but looking down the run to the jump, it appeared a lot more impressive than from the bottom. Well, he had been a pretty good skier during college days. There wasn’t anybody in sight to embarrass him if he botched the little jump. He poled hard and headed downhill.

Two things surprised Chris. First, his skis were much faster than expected. When he started out he almost lost his balance backwards. Then, when he dug in the poles and launched himself on the jump, he went much higher than he thought he would. In the few seconds he was in the air he realized that he had overcompensated for the first mistake. Now he was leaning too far forward. He tried to bring up the tips of his skis and failed, hitting the snow with the tip of one ski. He somersaulted, bounced on his shoulders, made a half-roll and came to a stop with his right ski buried in the snow. His leg must be badly twisted, he thought. He moved to untangle himself and came close to fainting. It was more than a twist, for sure. The pain was awful when he tried to move.

Chris lay back, chilled, and felt the panic start. Nobody was in sight.

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