To celebrate the re-issue of Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match trilogy, I’m posting a review of the books that originally appeared on my old website. The book cover shown is the new re-issue cover… All three books are worth checking out if you fancy some old style Cold War espionage.
Game, Set and Match trilogy:
Book 1: Berlin Game
Book 2: Mexico Set
Book 3: London Match
When Erich Stinnes is spotted in Mexico City, Bernard and Dicky are sent to investigate. Their job is to find him and “enrol him” – persuade him to defect. Events in the first book shape everything that takes place in this second part of the trilogy. Bernard is viewed with suspicion by the London office, and only the successful completion of the job will help convince them. His loyalty to the British secret service is put in serious doubt as elaborate games try to make him look like a traitor.
The tone of this book is different to that of the first – there is less of the banter that lightened up the introductory chapter. The higher personal stakes means the dialogue is more determined and sober.
Setting the story in Mexico City is incredibly clever; the contrast with Berlin could not be any greater. Where Berlin is damp, cold, and determined by man’s political desires, Mexico is ruled by the oppressive forces of nature – the harsh sun, high temperatures and pollution. Berlin is portrayed as very grey, whereas you are given the impression that Mexico is a bleached out yellow that permanently strains the eyes. Berlin is a police state; in Mexico the lawlessness runs wild. For Bernard, Berlin is very personal, whereas Mexico is detached and alien.
The story powers itself along, and although there are a couple of niggles, once it gets its claws in you, you can’t escape. The pressure never lets up. The book is hugely solid all the way through, and the last hundred pages just do not stop – all accusations and an explosive ending – perhaps the best thriller writing I’ve read since The Day of the Jackal. High praise indeed.