“Message posted for you concerning the whole truth about your onetime acquaintance, Mr. E.L. of Maine. To retrieve, use Folly’s tradecraft, page 47. Then use book code, line 11. The dead drop will be known to you, just as it was to Ashenden from the very beginning. Welcome to the real Double Game.”
With that kind of cryptic lure, who could resist the temptation to at least try to decipher what it meant? For journalist Bill Cage, now in his early 50s with a career that went off track many years ago, the urge to follow the clue proves too strong. And that clue is just the first in a string of them. Once Cage has followed the instructions he deciphers from the message, he finds another and yet another. It all stems from a long-ago interview that Cage conducted with one of his favorite spy thriller authors, Ed LeMaster.
"Not only a superb spy thriller, THE DOUBLE GAME...is about relationships and redemption, lost dreams and lives regained. It’s about betrayal and forgiveness. It’s about what might have been, the curves life throws at us, and what we make of what we have.... THE DOUBLE GAME is high entertainment of the intelligent kind."
LeMaster had been a valuable asset to the Agency. Once retired, he turned to writing fiction. At least he claimed it was fiction. But was it? During the interview, LeMaster made an indiscreet remark, something to the effect of having once entertained the idea of turning double agent. Drinks may have had something to do with those loose lips. Nonetheless, Cage used the information in an effort to further his own career. Unfortunately, it backfired on him.
Now, over 20 years later, Cage has an opportunity to delve into what derailed him way back then. And his love of spy novels will come in more than handy. Cage’s father handed down his love of thrillers to his son. Both have voraciously read every edition that the top authors of the genre offered over many decades. In fact, their shelves contain a wealth of them, including many first editions and rare copies. To Cage’s absolute astonishment, the pages containing the clues come from his own books. His first instinct is to visit his father, currently living in Vienna.
Cage Sr. worked among government agents throughout his career, moving his family around Europe whenever his job required it. So young Bill Cage knows his way around Vienna, Prague and Budapest. His familiarity with the city streets will be crucial to ferreting out who has sent him on this deadly treasure hunt and why.
Shortly after arriving in Europe, he links up with Litzi Strauss, a cheeky young woman from his early, carefree days. When he sees her, his heart skips a beat. Something happened long ago that left the two of them with unfinished business. Now, each has a spouse in their past, but who knows about the future?
What started out as almost a lark turns highly dangerous. Is Bill Cage really up to the challenge? Litzi’s presence is at first welcome, but certain events plant the seed of doubt. Soon, Cage doesn’t know who to trust.
Not only a superb spy thriller, THE DOUBLE GAME --- written about a spy thriller called The Double Game --- is about relationships and redemption, lost dreams and lives regained. It’s about betrayal and forgiveness. It’s about what might have been, the curves life throws at us, and what we make of what we have. And no spy novel would be complete without secrets. Deadly ones, and lots of them. Dan Fesperman’s thriller has those, too. THE DOUBLE GAME is high entertainment of the intelligent kind.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 7, 2012