The final volume in the third of Deighton's Cold War trilogies to feature Bernard Samson, the star-crossed British...



The final volume in the third of Deighton's Cold War trilogies to feature Bernard Samson, the star-crossed British intelligence agent who has yet to wear out his welcome. Back from a couple of enervating sojourns behind the Iron Curtain at the start of 1988 (Hope, 1996), Bernard (assistant to MI6's Berlin Resident) once again makes a nuisance of himself by digging into the death of his sister-in-law Tessa. The lost lady was killed in a shootout prior to the extraction from East Germany of Bernard's wife Fiona (a fellow spy who had infiltrated the Stasi as a counterfeit traitor). Assuming London Central ordered Tessa's murder to provide a corpse that would convince DDR authorities that Fiona had died in an abortive effort to return her to the West, the seasoned field-agent begins raking up a past his superiors want to forget. Among those he importunes for information are Silas Gaunt (a nominally retired but still legendary figure in the UK's espionage community), Jim Prettyman (a venal, terminally ill colleague), and Werner Volkman (a lifelong friend who handles spot assignments for SIS). Initially, Bernard makes little headway in his inquiries. Eventually, though, the tangled web begins to unravel, the conspiracy to make sense. The tension builds nicely as Bernard leverages his hard-won knowledge and forces the tawdry supporting players to take violent action. The devious principals remain behind the scenes until upper-echelon disclosures at a closed-door meeting in Berlin confirm Bernard's suspicions about their gratuitously duplicitous roles. At which point, the department's deputy director bleakly concludes that a particularly heinous act was, if not a perfect crime, at least a perfect solution. Bernard Samson gives another fine account of himself, earning a substantive measure of professional and personal redemption. Even so, almost 18 months remain on Deighton's narrative calendar before the Berlin Wall comes down, suggesting to optimists that the author has world enough and time for more trilogies.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 1996


Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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