Charity, UK first edition, 1996
Travelling through Eastern Europe escorting a dying US agent - his friend and former colleague Jim Prettyman - the discovery of one of Tessa Kosinski’s old brooches in Jim's possession gives Bernard Samson a thread that he starts to unravel to get at the truth about the last ten years.
The book begins in deepest Poland in 1988, with the Russians increasingly concerned about the loyalty of their Polish neighbours. With Bret Rensselaer now back at the head of the Department, Dicky Cruyer’s future is wrapped up with Bernard’s, as the latter becomes increasingly paranoid that the shadow of suspicion about Tessa’s death will fall on him unless he can discover what really happened on that fateful night in Berlin.
Gloria Kent, Bernard’s former lover, is making a future for herself in the department and is surprisingly linked to the bungled extraction of Fiona. The reader also discovers just how significant Silas Gaunt, the department's eminence grise, has been over these nine books as Bernard discovers a box at Frank's Berlin residence which lays out the truth about his wife's disappearance and her sister's death in Berlin.
His boss, Bret, ends up marrying Bernard's former lover Gloria; Bernard finally gets a decent departmental pension and the chance to rebuild his relationship with Fiona.
Why it's enjoyable
After nine novels which have intrigued and surprised with numerous twists and surprises and hidden depths to the characters, this is the end. The reader really can root for Bernard as he digs deep to uncover the web of intrigue in which he and his wife have been caught for the last ten years, and understand the consequences of the spy game on individuals as Bret reveals how the pressure of guilt led to a suicide attempt by Fiona.
'"We've had you under observation, Bernard," said Bret. "It's no good you playing the innocent. You are up to your old tricks. You might just as well level with us."
"I have nothing to tell you," I said. "What evidence do you have? What the hell am I supposed to have done? I fought off a couple of muggers and I met with one of the people we use. So what?"
Bret remained cool. "That's just the trouble," he said softly. "You've got the fixed idea that we are on trial - the Department. You carry on as if everyone here should be answerable to you."
The D-G said in his deep fruity voice: "Your brother-in-law is a mischief-maker. Everyone here knows that. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the accusations he brings against you."'