Superbly crafted thriller set during the Cold War, about which it is now possible to feel nostalgic.
Ursula Jaeger is remarkable not just for her beauty, intelligence, and gentleness. She also has second sight: show her a picture of Ronald Reagan, for instance, let her study it, and she can tell you much of what occupies his mind. This ability quite naturally has big-time spying organizations salivating. At the moment, the KGB has her, the CIA wants her, and England's SIS thinks it knows how to steal her. David Fisher, a top-flight agent stationed in Germany, draws the assignment to kidnap Ursula as she visits her father in East Berlin. Being the clever, resourceful professional that he is, Fisher carries it off without a hitch. But naïve, duped Ursula is anything but a professional. She's terrified, and it unavoidably becomes part of Fisher's job to reassure and calm her sufficiently so that she can be as productive for the West as she was for her former masters. He brings that off too, but in the process an unexpected thing happens to icy, self-sufficient Fisher. For the first time in his life, he falls in love. Meanwhile, the Americans have soured on “Operation Aeolus.” They want the mission aborted and the package (read: Ursula) returned. Fisher, of course, understands that to do so is tantamount to consigning his beloved to Lubyanka and the far-from-tender mercies of a vengeful KGB. Carefully, guilefully, he plans an escape for them both, but as all veteran readers know full well, the cold is a hard place to come in from.
Literate, intricately plotted, full of believable and appealing characters: Rules of the Game shows the impressive and still-underrated Allbeury (Show Me a Hero, 1994, etc.) at the top of his game.