The Reading Room

Books Within a Book

Review of Dan Fesperman’s ‘The Double Game’

It is rare to find a book which captures the imagination quite the way Dan Fesperman has with his spy thriller The Double Game. Books in this genre abound but this is the first time I have read a book based on the classic novels of its kind. Fesperman has delivered a clever homage to spy fiction and the great authors who went before him, most notably John Le Carré, Graham Greene, Len Deighton, Ian Fleming, John Buchan, Helen MacInnes and Somerset Maugham.

Beginning in the days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a young journalist, Bill Cage is told by a former spy turned novelist, Edwin Lemaster that he had once considered becoming a double agent. Cage had grown up devouring the spy fiction books collected by his father who worked for the American Foreign Service in the cities his novels were set in.

Fast forward twenty years and Cage, now working in PR, alone with a teenage son receives an anonymous letter telling him he should have pursued Lemaster’s claim further. Taking the bait, Cage is given numerous tips to help uncover the truth via a series of cryptic notes based on references to classic spy novels from his father’s collection.

It is an intriguing book and for the most part, well written. It is clearly a book written by a fan for fans and worth reading for that if nothing else but there is enough in it to appeal to a broader audience. It made me reconsider many of the books in my own collection and prompted me to post photographs of those mentioned via my social media outlets as well as prompting me to search out titles and authors unbeknown to me. It is a good read, the idea behind the story was an inspired one and for that it probably gets a free pass from more discerning readers. For those of you who have not read any of the Cold War ‘classics’ then I would certainly recommend you giving them a go, they are not all exploding pens and underwater cars, many are a porthole into a world few today could possibly imagine.

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