by Bruce TierneyJuly, 2000
Christmastime 1933. Lovely German spy Katarina Heinrich strolls along the docks of New York City with her newfound friend Catherine Donaldson. Catherine chatters on excitedly about her new job opportunity: the following day, she would leave the city to begin work for a new employer, mathematician Richard Carter, a man she knew only through correspondence. Katarina runs ahead and disappears behind a huge packing container. Come look at this, Katarina calls. Hesitating, Catherine nonetheless does her friend's bidding. Katarina steps out from the shadows, grim determination in her eyes, and plunges a switchblade deep into Catherine's chest.
Fast forward to 1943. Katarina/ Catherine is married to Richard Carter, and comfortably ensconced in her role as a deep-cover inactive German agent. One January evening, Richard arrives home from work uncharacteristically excited; he has been offered a job in New Mexico, on a hush-hush government project code-named Manhattan. Katarina shares his excitement, but not for the reasons he thinks; the Manhattan project signals Katarina's return to active duty.
It doesn't take Katarina long upon arrival in New Mexico to realize that something big is going on. From snippets of conversations, purloined papers, and a midnight visit to a secured area, she pieces together an incomplete, but nonetheless chilling, picture of Manhattan's secret, an atomic bomb capable of leveling an entire city. It is imperative that she get this information back to Germany before the weapon can be put to use.
A Gathering of Spies is a tightly written wartime thriller, a tale of espionage and counter-espionage. Katarina Heinrich is the consummate villain, a beautiful and deadly femme fatale, breathtaking in every sense of the word. It is a credit to author John Altman that the reader almost wants Katarina to succeed in her treachery.