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. (Aug. 23)
“As fiendishly clever a spy story as you could hope for. . . . A guaranteed delight for any espionage fan.” —The Seattle Times, "Best Mysteries of the Year"
“[The Double Game’s] immersion in old-school espionage will thrill. . . . Fesperman is the most dependably entertaining, politically engaged writer you may never have heard of.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“The Double Game is not just a spy novel—it’s a love letter to the genre, renditioning the unwary reader and dropping him into a dizzying pastiche of classic espionage, cleverly woven into a thrilling story. Brilliantly executed and a joy from start to finish.” —Olen Steinhauer, author of An American Spy
“Terrific. . . . A finely crafted espionage story and a dazzling homage to grand masters of spy fiction.” —The Globe and Mail
“Fans of spy novels will find much to love in The Double Game. . . . [It’s] clearly born of the author's desire not only to give you a satisfying read, but also (equally important) to share some of his favorite books with you.”—Nancy Pearl, Morning Edition (NPR)
“Fesperman [is] . . . one of the most talented of the new generation of American spy writers… [He] provides genuine drama, laced with wit.” —The Daily Mail
“An affectionate homage to the spy novel as well as a complex virtuoso performance in its own right.” —The Times (London)
“Thrilling. . . . A spy novel about spy novels, calculated to deliver a maximum dose of fun for the genre fan. . . . Fesperman’s book is a triple, quadruple, quintuple game.” —The Daily Beast
“A creative interplay with some of the best lines of classic spy fiction genre mixed with an original voice. This novel will immerse you in a clever and intriguing twist of plots and keep you a willing accomplice to the end.” —Allison Bishop, International Spy Museum
“A beautifully written book [from] the highly accomplished Fesperman, a veteran of the sophisticated, literary novel of intrigue.” —Publishers Weekly
“Fans of spy novels will enjoy Fesperman’s affectionate homage.” —Kirkus Reviews
Winner of a couple of daggers from the Crime Writers' Association, plus the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers, Fesperman knows the spy genre well enough to introduce echoes of John le Carré and others into his newest thriller. No word yet on plot—this just dropped into the schedule—but settings in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest suggest dark glamour and events rooted in the Cold War legacy of World War II.
In 1984, young Washington Post writer Bill Cage ignited a miniscandal by reporting that spy novelist Edwin Lemaster--"the American John le Carré"--had considered working as a Soviet double agent when he was with the CIA. More than 25 years later, Cage follows up his story for Vanity Fair--duly warned by his father, a former diplomat who knew Lemaster, to watch his back. The distinguishing feature of Fesperman's nostalgia-soaked novel is that its clues and secret instructions take the form of quoted passages from classic spy novels by le Carré, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, Charles McCarry, etc. Like his father, Warfield, Cage is a spy buff who can quote from those books (and Lemaster's) verbatim. He secures the magazine assignment mainly as an excuse to leave his dreary PR job and return to his childhood haunts in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Budapest. But, stoked by anonymous tips, odd coincidences and revelations about his secretive old man, he soon becomes obsessed over solving the mysteries of Lemaster's past. The romantic stakes are raised when Bill's boyhood girlfriend, Litzi, turns up in Vienna; feelings of nostalgia are disrupted when a player in this espionage drama gets shot in the face, KGB-style. Fans of spy novels will enjoy Fesperman's affectionate homage. As literate and well-executed as this book is, however, it lacks the deeper dimensions that would make it more than a clever generic exercise. The father-son business, also involving Cage's child, David, is affecting, but held against the high standards of le Carré's A Perfect Spy, it is lightweight. Has its limitations, but in re-sparking interest in classic spy fiction, it attains maximum impact.