The Matchmaker

Paul Vidich

Pegasus Crime 2022

Anne Simpson, an American translator working in Berlin, recently divorced, no children and an introvert, is marked by the East German Stasi secret police as a perfect cover for one of the agency’s spies. Paul Vidich, in his new spy-crime novel, “The Matchmaker,” masterfully details how Simpson was duped in the months before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

She was on holiday in the Netherlands, recovering from her recent divorce, when she accidentally meets Stefan. He had been briefed on Simpson’s personality, her love of music and books. After a short romance, they marry and move into a West Berlin apartment that overlooks the Wall and East Berlin.

History, it appears, is worth studying, for the lessons it delivers.

Simpson naively accepted Stefan’s constant need to travel because  he was a piano tuner and had contracts with European orchestras. “And you believed him?” she is asked sarcastically, by BND (West German Federal Intelligence) when they pay her a visit. They want her to identify a body tossed into the Landwehr Canal. The BND and the BKA (Federal Criminal Police) tell her someone witnessed the murder of Stefan and, further, they suspect Stefan was an Stasi spy.

As she reconstructs how she met Stefan, and as she is questioned by authorities, Simpson comes to understand that her marriage was a ruse. Author Vidich turns Simpson’s character into a woman wronged, but determined to regain her self-respect even at the risk to her own life. While BND and, then, the American CIA began to apply pressure, threatening her with prison, Stasi operatives are trying to apprehend her. Suspense heightens as she learns Stefan has a wife and son living in East Berlin who have been planning an escape to West Berlin.

The strength of the book is the recounting of historical events, many now forgotten or having occurred in another generation. Vidich vividly describes protests in the street and the suspenseful hours as East Berliners learn the order had been given to open the border. But the novel also raises questions such as what happened to the Stasi officials after the Wall came down in 1989. As noted in the book, practically nothing. And why not? History, it appears, is worth studying, for the lessons it delivers.