Los Alamos

Los Alamos

3.77 (2,018 ratings by Goodreads)
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Near the end of World War II, high on a mesa overlooking the shimmering New Mexico desert, an international team of scientists has gathered together to build the world's most dangerous weapon. Night and day, month after month, the labs and living quarters of this makeshift community buzz with activity as the top-secret operation draws closer to its goal: the building of the deadliest bomb in human history. A few more weeks, and the bomb will be completed; a week or two past that, and the war will be instantly and irrevocably ended.

This, of course, is not fiction. Led by Robert Oppenheimer, a team of brilliant scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico did indeed work together on the Manhattan Project, the secret operation to build the world's first atomic bomb. Against this backdrop--and using Oppenheimer as one of the major characters--Joe Kanon has constructed an ingenious and utterly absorbing thriller.

It begins with a murder. In April, 1945, the Project is moving smoothly forward until one evening, a body is discovered in nearby Santa Fe. Local police treat the case with routine suspicion, but when the victim is identified as a scientist from "the Hill, " the army launches a covert internal investigation to find the killer. Has the secrecy of the Project been compromised? Is it possible that the slain man, an enigmatic scientist named Bruner, was revealing classified information to the enemy, or were the bizarre circumstances of his death merely evidence of a lovers' quarrel gone horribly wrong?

Michael Connolly, the intelligence officer brought in to crack the case--and then use his PR skills to make it disappear--soon discovers that nothing about Bruner's murder is routine. Butin Los Alamos, a place dedicated to keeping secrets, uncovering the truth proves harder than expected. It is only when he falls in love and begins an affair with Emma Pawlowski, the spirited wife of one of the scientists, that Connolly truly begins to weave together the hidden lives and dangerous associations of those at the dark heart of the Project.

In this deft and gripping thriller, Joseph Kanon has created an utterly convincing tale of espionage and love, set against the mist important undercover military operation of our time. Elegantly written and crackling with suspense, "Los Alamos" marks the emergence of a major new talent.

"They tell me Joseph Kanon is a publishing executive, but I don't believeit. I think he is a veteran of the 1945 atom bomb program. No one could writea first novel so convincing as "Los Alamos" without having been there. Noone could conjure the wartime background with such subtle restraint. If I'mwrong, Joseph Kanon is an outstanding new writer, and "Los Alamos" is atriumph of historical re-creation and my sort of story-telling."
--Len Deighton

"Joseph Kanon's "Los Alamos" is a thoroughly absorbing novel set in themidst of what we now know as both the most exciting scientific saga of ourcentury and the invention with the greatest potential for tragedy that ourcivilization has yet produced. What begins as the pursuit of a murdererthrough the landscape of a wartime Southwest quickly descends into a deepermystery involving eminent scientists, Robert Oppenheimer among them, and thecold calculations of military intelligence. Knowing the aftermath of whathappened at Los Alamos, as we do, only deepens the experience of this finelycraftedbook."
--Stuart Woods, author of "Dead in the Water" and" Dirt"

"There really were heroes, spies, and lovers at Los Alamos in the days whenthey built the first atomic bombs, and in this compelling novel Joe Kanon hasimagined those soaring, harrowing days back to life. It's written with verveand intelligence, it's authentic from beginning to end, and I couldn't put itdown."
--Richard Rhodes, author of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb"

"Intricately plotted, highly atmospheric, and stunningly authentic...This is athinking person's thriller that makes wonderful use of, but never cheapens, oneof history's more extraordinary moments...A smashing debut."
"--Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
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Product details

  • Paperback | 544 pages
  • 106.68 x 175.26 x 33.02mm | 272.15g
  • Island Books
  • English
  • 0440224071
  • 9780440224075
  • 116,478

Review quote

"A well-plotted novel that effortlessly dissolves real people and events into an elegant and moving thriller."--San Francisco Chronicle "The suspense novel for all others to beat...[a] must-read."--Denver Post "Compelling...[Kanon] pulls the reader into a historical drama of excitement and high moral seriousness."--The New York Times "A magnificent work of fiction...A stunning achievement."--Boston Globe
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Flap copy

In a dusty, remote community of secretly constructed buildings and awesome possibility, the world's most brilliant minds have come together. Their mission: to split an atom and end a war. But among those who have come to Robert Oppenheimer's "enchanted campus" of foreign-born scientists, baffled guards, and restless wives is a simple man, an unraveler of human secrets--a man in search of a killer.
It is the spring of 1945. And Michael Connolly has been sent to Los Alamos to investigate the murder of a security officer on the Manhattan Project. But amid the glimmering cocktail parties and the staggering genius, Connolly will find more than he bargained for. Sleeping in a dead man's bed and making love to another man's wife, Connolly has entered the moral no-man's-land of Los Alamos. For in this place of discovery and secrecy, hope and horror, Connolly is plunged into a shadowy war with a killer--as the world is about to be changed forever....
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About Joseph Kanon

After a distinguished career in book publishing, Joseph Kanon turned to writing fiction. He is the author of Los Alamos, a New York Times bestseller that won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1997. He lives in New York City.
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Review Text

"A well-plotted novel that effortlessly dissolves real people and events into an elegant and moving thriller."-San Francisco Chronicle

"The suspense novel for all others to beat...[a] must-read."-Denver Post

"Compelling...[Kanon] pulls the reader into a historical drama of excitement and high moral seriousness."-The New York Times

"A magnificent work of fiction...A stunning achievement."-Boston Globe
show more

Rating details

2,018 ratings
3.77 out of 5 stars
5 22% (449)
4 43% (859)
3 27% (547)
2 6% (127)
1 2% (36)
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