I found this book when browsing round a second hand book shop in a small town in Scotland, at the beginning of a few days off.
This was one of Len Deighton’s books I’d not tracked down – I now have a number of his books at home waiting to be read – and with some time on my hands I dived in. The book is quite short at 240 (yellowing, faded) pages, with a pretty straight forward setup – a Russian scientist defects so that he can continue his work searching for extra-terrestrial life. The US and British secret services have their own agenda, using him to find out who is leaking information to the Russkies.
The book is written in the first person, and is another in the series of books featuring Deighton’s nameless hero (called Harry Palmer in the Michael Caine films such as Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin.) Despite the excellent reviews (see the back cover) there’s something that has never quite clicked for me with the character, even in the earlier books. The book doesn’t deserve the praise – its no classic. There is a lot of great dialogue between characters, and an exciting car chase through the desert, but they are highlights not matched by the rest of the book.
For me the later Bernard Samson trilogies are a lot better – they are often absolutely stunning. I reviewed some of them on my last incarnation of a website – check them out.
Deighton seems to be largely overlooked these days and it is a real shame. One day he will make a comeback, when people realise that old fashioned espionage brings adventure that modern day thrillers can only dream about.