4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Top class spy writing,
This review is from: Berlin Game (Harper Books) (Paperback)
This is the first of the trilogy Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match and (quite by chance) I've read them in reverse order. I won't bore readers with why, but it's relevant because it means by the time I read Berlin Game, I was well aware of most of the plot and ideas from the other two books. But it's still brilliant - it is still a highly entertaining read, full of tension and well drawn characters, situations and intrigue. For me, Deighton has been a revelation.
His characterization is superb, and the plots are brilliantly interwoven and moved in subtle and convincing ways. What is most satisfying is that very little apparently happens in any of the three books - it's mostly conversations and the thoughts and ideas, emotions and reactions of the narrator, Bernard Samson.
The pace is therefore slow - well, in fact, it's non-existent as the novels are not action-driven. This does not mean that there is no plot - very complicated things are taking place - but (like le Carre) Deighton gets to grips with the bureaucratic detail and mundane reality of intelligence activity and makes the plot emerge from the daily lives (work and personal) of his characters.
For me this is the mark of an accomplished writer, who has a very good grasp of the art of dialogue and character development, of what is taking place inside people's heads and emotions, so that the world around them becomes a reflection of those inner realities.
Indeed I think it's fair to say that this is what motivates Deighton on a much larger, political and ideological scale - his concern is to communicate why Germany, Britain and the Soviet Union were behaving the way they did in the Cold War and what motivates individuals to act in particular ways at specific points in history. This is why he is so convincing, because the books don't distort the complex realities that lie beneath the historical process and, of course, the actions of individuals in their daily lives. He is largely non-judgmental in this approach, although Samson conveys a type of cussed moral code that suggests that although the UK is a dirty, ramshackle, elitist place, beset by hypocrisy and expediency, it has enough left to be worth defending from tyranny.