Staff Review by Claire
This is not just another spy book.
As cliché as it is to say, I was captivated by this historical drama from the first page; when the book opened on a run-of-the-mill dinner scene, I had no idea the emotional journey this story would undertake. Beneath the Darkest Sky begins with the moments leading up the arrest of the Sweet family in 1937 Moscow. From there I was whisked away with Prescott Sweet on his harrowing voyage through the Soviet work camps as he fights for his life, determined to use his unrivaled skill set to see his wife and children safely out of the clutches of the cruel communist machine.
For some background, Prescott Sweet is Sidney Temple from The Strivers’ Row Spy, book one in Overstreet’s Renaissance series – he’s had to change his name to avoid his past with the FBI...and the British Intelligence catching up with him. Prescott’s keen observation of situations and the people around him allowed him to become the first African American FBI agent, and in this second book of the Renaissance series his exceptional abilities and pure fortitude help him to survive the most grotesque circumstances. His cool logic in the face of unimaginable horrors, incredible memory despite extreme pressure, and knack for languages form a fascinating character – and all skills play key roles in surviving and inspiring the survival of those he cares for. Prescott’s simple desire for peace and acceptance not just for himself and his family, but for everyone is a defining characteristic and the arrest of himself and his family in a land that had promised so much was a cold betrayal of his hopes.
Peace and acceptance of people of color was something the communism of the Soviet Union had promised at the time, and many African Americans were drawn to a way of life that in many ways seemed to offer more than the US. It was very interesting to read a piece of fiction written from a perspective I had previously not known much about, and Overstreet is so meticulous in his research that I feel I learned quite a few things about this side of history. His depiction of the slow fall from genuine excitement about the virtues of communism and the unfortunate misperceptions of the system to regular disappearances and mass paranoia is shockingly realistic, and at the very core Overstreet highlights the issues of race that remain important to this day. Overstreet expertly weaves historically accurate events and people – political and artistic – into this work of fiction, sprinkling mentions of Depression America and the rise of Hitler into the backdrop of his story but focusing his attention on the brutality of Stalin and the ever-present fight for the recognition of racial equality.
Throughout Beneath the Darkest Sky, Overstreet’s attention to historical elements allows him to describe the specific artistic, architectural, and political feats of the time in exquisite detail. While his natural incorporation of slanguage and untranslatable Russian words adds another organic layer to the story, Overstreet’s precise wording creates a vividly intense impression of the highs and lows of a seemingly equal society – from the extravagant parties thrown by government officials with zoo animals to the cruel savagery of the work camps along the Road of Bones.
I was completely taken in by this story. The visual intensity, the seamless zippering of timelines, the substantial historical importance, the genuine characters, and the unique perspective all bundled together made Beneath the Darkest Sky a delicious and insightful read that was wonderful to cozy up with this holiday season. The Renaissance series has not let me down, and I am excited to see what direction book three will take!
In this riveting and emotionally powerful historical drama, an ex-FBI agent plunges into the darkest shadows of 1930s Europe, where everything he loves is on the line . . .
International consultant Prescott Sweet’s mission is to bring justice to countries suffering from America’s imperialistic interventions. With his outspoken artist wife, Loretta, and their two children, he lives a life of equality and continental elegance amid Europe’s glittering capitals—beyond anything he ever dared hope for.
But he is still a man in hiding, from his past with the Bureau, from British Intelligence—and from his own tempting, dangerous skill at high-level espionage. So when he has the opportunity to live in Moscow and work at the American Embassy, Prescott and his family seize the chance to take refuge and at last put down roots in what they believe is a fair society.
Life in Russia, however, proves to be a beautiful lie. Reduced to bare survival, with his son gravely ill, Prescott calls on all his skills in a last-ditch effort to free his family from the grips of Stalin. But between honor and expediency, salvation and atrocity, he’ll be forced to play an ever more merciless hand and commit unimaginable acts for a future that promises nowhere to run . . .
Advance Praise For Jason Overstreet’s
Beneath The Darkest Sky
“With impressive research that yields precise details, Overstreet manages to uncover a new layer to the black experience and reveal that there is so much about black history that remains unexplored. In Beneath the Darkest Sky, Overstreet uses lushly drawn characters and an edge-of-your-seat plot to teach us many important things we didn’t know, while thrilling us and entertaining us at the same time.” —Nick Chiles, New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
“Chilling and original, Beneath the Darkest Sky is a frightening and fascinating plunge into the world of Soviet paranoia and intrigue. From the nerve-rattling appearance of NKVD policemen on the very first page, to the stunning twists and turns of the final chapter, Jason Overstreet takes you on a taut and fast-paced journey of suspense and survival.” —Jack Ford, Emmy Award-winning news correspondent
“Sweet’s journey broke my heart but gave me hope—about this father’s quest for honor, and ultimately, in his determination to save those he loves more than life. Jason Overstreet’s newest historical thriller was a fascinating read!” —Rachel Howzell Hall, author of City of Saviors
“An unexpected tale about a family trapped in an unthinkable place during a historical time. I can’t get the imagery out of my head. Beneath the Darkest Sky is a chilling, thrill ride that keeps delivering!” —Karen Hunter, New York Times bestselling author, journalist, and radio talk show host
“Beneath the Darkest Sky transports us to 1930’s Russia, allowing us to witness Stalin’s atrocities. Thousands of Americans, hundreds of them black, fled the Great Depression for work in Russia, only to find themselves trapped behind the Iron Curtain. This novel shines a powerful spotlight on their unimaginable predicament.” —Van Jones, environmental and human rights activist and New York Times bestselling author of The Green Collar Economy