The Double Game

Dan Fesperman. Knopf, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-307-70013-1
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 "[f]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)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
Genre: Fiction
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