Action takes place in 1987
‘What have you got there?’ he asked.
‘I’m all right, Frank,’ I said.
‘Wouldn’t you rather have a real drink?’
‘I’m trying to cut back on the hard stuff, Frank.’
‘That bottle must have been on that trolley for years. Is it still all right?’ He picked up the bottle I’d poured my drink from, and studied the label with interest, and then he looked at me. ‘Vermouth? That’s not like you, Bernard.’
‘Delicious,’ I said.
observations: Having read (& blogged on - click on links) the first trilogy of Bernard Samson books - Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match – I have embarked on the second, and they are just as compelling.
Bernard is still distrusting and disapproving of most others in his mysterious department of spies, and still worrying about his personal life, his children, his departed wife and his new young girlfriend. By now it is like listening to a very entertaining old friend chatting about his bosses and the rest of his officemates, with the occasional attack, gun story or general physical violence thrown in. The book is very much rooted in its time, and not just because the Eastern bloc has been dismantled since then. The food, restaurants and décor are all depressingly 1980s, and Samson doesn’t know that if he looks something up on the Department’s computers then there will be a record of this, he can be traced.
And there are those odd funny comments that you think probably are true:
Posh Harry’s mastery of the German language – grammar, pronunciation and idiom – belied the rather casual, relaxed demeanour he liked to display. Adult foreigners who will devote enough time and energy to acquire German like this have to be dedicated, demented or Dutch.A previous entry looked at the tailor scene in London Match – Deighton excels in these scenes where two things are going on at once, and the dialogue and actions are evenly split, the reader (and sometimes the participants) having to decide what is being discussed in any single sentence. In this one there is an incongruous scene where Samson and Werner are discussing the boiler at Lisl’s hotel along with more weighty items.
Samson’s cleaning lady is called Mrs Palmer – which is the surname given to the film version of the character from the Ipcress File and other Deighton books (though Deighton never names him). He also drinks some Chateau Palmer wine.
It is very hard to imagine that anyone could finish this book and not want to start on the next one, Spy Line, immediately.
The photograph is from Perry Photography.