A few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, spook-turned-novelist Edwin Lemaster revealed to up-and-coming journalist Bill Cage that he’d once considered spying for the enemy. For Cage, a Foreign Service brat who grew up in the very cities where Lemaster’s books were set, the news story created a brief but embarrassing sensation and heralded the beginning of the end of his career in journalism.
More than two decades later, Cage, now a lonely, disillusioned PR man, receives an anonymous note hinting that he should have dug deeper into Lemaster’s pronouncement. Spiked with cryptic references to some of Cage’s favorite spy novels, the note is the first of many literary bread crumbs that lead him back to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest, each instruction drawing him closer to the complex truth, each giving rise to more questions: Why is beautiful Litzi Strauss back in his life after thirty years? How much of his father’s job involved the CIA? As the events of Lemaster’s past eerily—and dangerously—begin intersecting with those of Cage’s own, a “long stalemate of secrecy” may finally be coming to an end.
A story about spies and their secrets, fathers and sons, lovers and fate, duplicity and loyalty, The Double Game ingeniously taps the espionage classics of the Cold War to build a spellbinding maze of intrigue. It is Dan Fesperman’s most audacious, suspenseful, and satisfying novel yet.
The highly accomplished Fesperman (Lie in the Dark), a veteran of the sophisticated, literary novel of intrigue, makes spy fiction a central "character" in this ambitious but overly complex story involving journalist turned PR man Bill Cage. The action opens in 1984, when Cage interviews Edwin Lemaster, a spy who became "the world's premier espionage novelist," and elicits a vague confession: that he might have betrayed his country just "or the thrill of it." Fast forward to 2010 when Cage receives a hand-delivered letter typed on his own stationary and on his own typewriter that promises to deliver "the whole truth" about Lemaster. Cage plays along, deciphering the clue in the first note to find a "dead drop" to receive further instructions. The trail takes him to Vienna, where he had lived as a teenager with his father, a member of the diplomatic corps who might have had a toe in the world of espionage. One clue leads him to a meeting with his old flame, Litzi Strauss, and together they travel to Prague and Budapest. Cage is enveloped in a fog of intrigue, but it feels too much like an elaborate game no real menace, nothing really at stake and the reader's patience wears thin while trying to make sense of the intricately constructed and highly contrived plot. Still, perceptive readers particularly those familiar with the spy literature might still enjoy this beautifully written book. First printing: 40,000.
Satisfying, quick read
A satisfying, quick read. I have relatively limited familiarity with spy novels - primarily compliments of Le Carre. This has inspired my curiosity, and the reading list at the back gives a great indication of where to start.