The Double Game, by Dan Fesperman

by Rebeca on March 8, 2013

The Double Game
By Dan Fesperman
Alfred A. Knopf
357 pages
$14.64 Hardback; $12.99 Kindle

If you like the intrigue and thrills of spy novels, you won’t be disappointed with Dan Fesperman’s The Double Game— a clever salute to the genre and its literary spymasters.

Former journalist and now PR man Bill Cage has been an aficionado of spy thrillers since he was an embassy brat when his diplomat father— an avid reader and collector of the genre—introduced him to the classics.

Earlier in his career as a journalist, Bill interviews former spook, but now bestselling novelist Edwin Lemaster about his days as a spy. The interview is plodding along until the conversation takes a sudden turn when the author alludes he flirted with the idea of working for the KGB. When the article is published, it causes a sensation within the intelligence community and Cage’s career as a journalist begins to unravel.

Flash forward 20 years later, Cage is now a PR professional at a DC firm. His clients have ties to the government and he has become adept in the hand-holding and the doublespeak of the profession. One evening when he returns from work, he finds a mysterious note that prods him to further investigate the Lemaster pronouncement.

Peppered with references from Cage’s favorite spy novels, the PR man decides to take a stab and see where it all leads. Soon Cage follows the clues in Central Europe—from Vienna, where his father has retired, to Prague, and Budapest. Along the way, he meets up with Litzi, a former girlfriend from his teenage days in Vienna, a mysterious book scout— who easily could have been a spook himself, an assorted group of antique book sellers and, of course, spies from the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. For each note that Cage receives questions crop up that involve both Litzi and his father, which has him questioning their pasts in what has become a game of wits and deception.

The Double Game is, as author Olen Steinhauer writes in his blurb for the book, “Brilliantly executed and a joy from start to finish.” Indeed, and it will keep readers guessing who is Cage’s handler and what the next secret he will unearth via the literary citations and the visits to the antique bookstores of Vienna, Prague, and Budapest.

With his numerous mentions of spy classics penned by Ambler, Le Carré, and Greene, as well as a bibliography of the books that helped inspire The Double Game, Fesperman has written the consummate tale for spy aficionados who love getting lost in a maze of intrigue and suspense. But it’s more—The Double Game is a terrific primer for readers new to the genre.

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