Top mysteries challenge review: The Game, Set & Match trilogy by Len Deighton

I suddenly realised that I had not yet posted my review of Deighton’s trilogy, so here it is:

While I listed these books separately on my TBR list, the trilogy is listed as one book in the CWA list, so I will be reviewing them all together. Each book gets a brief synopsis and a very short review, and then I will review the common points together. I will try not to drop serious spoilers in the synopses, so they will necessarily be rather telegraphic, but if you have not yet read these books you probably should avoid this review anyway.

Published: 1983-5.
Genre: Espionage thriller.
Type of investigator: MI6 agent.

Title: Berlin Game:
Setting & time: London and Berlin, contemporary.

Agent Bernard Samson has been doing desk work for 5 years but his superiors in MI6 want him to go out back in the field to convince a frightened spy in East Germany to stay in place for a while longer. The man is convinced that Stasi or the KGB are about to discover his identity, and the only person he trusts to smuggle him out is Bernie. While he is considering whether to accept the mission or not, Bernie noses around and discovers that a high-ranking agent may be a mole, but finding out just which agent is going to be a tough job.

Review and rating:
A thrilling and twisted tale about intelligence and counter-intelligence, agents and double agents, trust and friendship, doubt and double-crossing. 4 stars.

Title: Mexico Set:
Setting & time: London, Berlin and Mexico City, contemporary.

A known KGB agent is spotted in Mexico City, and MI6, eager to recover its dignity after the defection of an important member of its staff over to the Soviets, send Bernard Samson to try to convince the man to defect. Samson isn’t too keen on the idea, but he needs to prove his loyalty, and so begins a complicated set of manoeuvres that can lead to either success or disaster.

Review and rating:
This excellent sequel to Berlin Game has narrator Bernard Samson trying to outmanoeuvre an enemy agent who knows him almost as well as he knows himself. 4+ stars.

Title: London Match:
Setting & time: London and Berlin; contemporary.

Story: Bernard Samson becomes filled with suspicion after an encounter with a Soviet agent, thinking that perhaps the double agent who fled to the East in book one wasn’t the only Soviet agent working inside MI6.

Review and rating: This final book in the trilogy follows Bernard Samson as he tries to discover if one of his superiors is a Soviet double agent, and re-build his private life at the same time. The weakest of the three books. 3 stars.

Review for the trilogy: All three books are well written and full of twists and turns, double (and triple) crossings, suspicion, fear, hatred and suspense. Deighton is clearly a master of suspense, and manages to make the secret services and the scheming that goes on within them believable and realistic, at least to someone like me who knows little about the subject. Unfortunately the very good second book in the trilogy is a hard act to follow, and the third book, which should be the strongest, doesn’t quite deliver, although it does complete the plot that began with the first book and suggest that the game is just beginning, thus paving the way for the second Bernard Samson trilogy.

All-over rating: A fine series of spy thrillers that deliver suspense and betrayal galore. 4- stars.

Books left in challenge: 88

Place on the list(s): CWA 58.


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