cover image Game Without Rules

Game Without Rules

Michael Gilbert. Union Square, $14.99 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-4549-5426-2

In this exceptional story collection, first published in 1968, Gilbert (1912–2006) flexes his gifts for clever plotting and rich characterization. In 11 interconnected stories first printed in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Gilbert follows the exploits of unassuming British intelligence agents Samuel Behrens and Daniel Calder, both of whom have ostensibly retired to the small village of Lamperdown after long careers with MI6. The best friends’ quiet afternoons spent beekeeping and dog-walking belie their continued adventures defending England as part of the Joint Services Standing Intelligence Committee. “On Slay Down,” a highlight, finds the duo hatching a plan to take down a typist at the British Air Ministry suspected of passing classified secrets to foreign governments. Equally stirring are “Prometheus Unbound,” which sees a previous mission to liberate Albania come back to haunt Behrens and Calder, and “The Road to Damascus,” in which they try to determine how a bullet-riddled corpse ended up in a sealed underground shelter. Throughout, Gilbert combines the comforts of a cozy mystery with the ingenuity of John Le Carré. Espionage fans will cherish this rediscovered gem. (July)