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The Helsinki Affair by Anna Pitoniak
Spy Thriller

The Helsinki Affair

Repeat author

Anna Pitoniak is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Necessary People.

by Anna Pitoniak

Excellent choice

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Quick take

Are you mission-ready? This hard-nosed, globetrotting espionage story will leave you questioning everything around you.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish



Amanda Cole is a brilliant young CIA agent, following in the footsteps of her father Charlie. But Amanda’s posting in Rome is a sleepy one. She’s listless and looking for action when, on a hot summer day, it walks right through her door. A lowly Russian operative is desperate, telling her that a US Senator is about to be assassinated on an overseas trip to Cairo. Amanda believes he’s telling the truth, but her superiors do not, and they determine that the best course of action is no action at all.

But when the assassination occurs, Amanda is suddenly thrust into an international conspiracy as she tries to find out why the senator was killed. What did he know that made him a target of the KGB and the Kremlin? Amanda pairs up with fast-talking, take-no-bullshit Kath, a brash older woman, and legendary spy, to get to the bottom of the case. The investigation takes them from Rome to London to Moscow to Helsinki.

As Amanda and Kath get closer to solving a case that involves double agents, blackmailed CEOs, illegal arms transfers, yachting oligarchs, and more, one question keeps coming back to haunt Amanda: why was her father’s name written down in the senator’s notes, notes that he seemed to be putting together right before he died? In order to get to the bottom of this international plot of blackmail, murder, and lies, Amanda must decide where her loyalty lies: with her country or with her family.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Helsinki Affair.
The Helsinki Affair


It wasn’t exactly the sensible thing to do, standing outside in the hot noon sun in July in Rome. Semonov paced back and forth, mopping his brow, his handkerchief long since soaked with sweat. No, this wasn’t sensible. He ought to have done as the Romans did, escaping the summer heat by stopping at Giolitti for a cone of gelato, or napping in a shuttered bedroom, or fleeing the city altogether for the breezy hills of Umbria. But Konstantin Nikolaievich Semonov was not standing here, pleading to be admitted to the American embassy, insisting that he had urgent information to share, because he was an entirely sensible person.

In his air-conditioned booth, the soldier hung up the phone. “You need to make an appointment. No one can see you today,” he said.

“Sir!” Semonov exclaimed, leaning toward the pinprick holes in the glass. “You are a Marine. I am speaking to you as a fellow military man. I am an officer in my nation’s army. My nation which is Russia.” A needless emphasis, as ten minutes earlier he had slid his passport under the bulletproof glass barrier to identify himself. “You must understand. I have information that matters today. Not tomorrow, not next week.”

In fairness to the soldier, Semonov was a hard man to take seriously. His shirt buttons strained to contain his plump stomach. His pockets jingled with loose change. Behind his round glasses, his eyes were wide and guileless. But when the Marine hesitated for a moment, Semonov’s instinct, which was well-honed, told him to seize his opening.

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Why I love it

When professional ambition and family loyalty collide, how far would you go to see justice done?

That’s the question CIA operative Amanda Cole must wrestle with in Anna Pitoniak’s smashing new novel, The Helsinki Affair. I love a tense spy thriller and was enthralled from the jump with this propulsive, globetrotting story.

When a Russian informant warns of the impending assassination of an American senator, Amanda is the only one who believes him. After the senator dies, Amanda is thrown into a worldwide conspiracy. With only experience and instincts to guide her, Amanda begins to untangle the web of international intrigue only to find her father at the center. Will she protect him and risk the career she prizes above everything? Or will Amanda sacrifice her beloved father and shatter his reputation to prove her fealty to the agency to which she has dedicated her life?

Pitoniak has taken the classic spy thriller and given it a stylish update with a brilliant and flawed female lead. It crackles with energy from the very first page, and the unexpected ending will leave readers begging for more. Relentless and riveting, The Helsinki Affair is fresh and twisty as the lemon peel in a Vesper Martini.

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Member ratings (7,894)

  • Leanna S.

    North Riverside, IL

    This was everything I wanted in a spy thriller! I’m new to the genre so I didn’t really know what to expect and I was afraid I’d be bored. But I promise, you will be completely engrossed in this story

  • Jessica D.


    I loved this spy thriller! The intrigue was great. When I thought I’d figured something out, here came another twist. The characters’ humanity made the story for me overall. How do you live with lies?

  • Rachel S.

    Puyallup, WA

    WOW WOW WOW. I usually don’t read spy thrillers but I’m so glad I gave this a chance! I loved the twists and turns and all the complications that came from the secrets and deceits of the characters.

  • Derrah K.

    Berlin , NH

    This book was amazing. The author kept you guessing on what secrets Amanda might uncover and how she would actually find them out. I loved that you didn’t know how it would all work out until the end

  • Denise W.

    Marietta, PA

    Loved this book. It kept you so motivated to finish it. The characters were so real and drew you into the plot. Spying and family ties was so appealing and different than I’ve ever read. Truly perfect

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