Spy Hook - 1988

The Samson series

Plot summary

After the ending to the Game, Set & Match trilogy the story is at a critical juncture. His wife Fiona still behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin, British agent Bernard Samson’s life has moved on in the last three years.

His children are getting older and he’s downsized from his central London townhouse to a semi-detached house and started out afresh with his much younger girlfriend, London Central intern Gloria Kent, in hum-drum suburban domesticity with his children whom he kept from being snatched by the KGB. But a cloud of suspicion still hangs over Samson. Old friends shun him and he’s reduced to undertaking small courier jobs to the USA, away from the Berlin he loves.

In contrast, Dicky Cruyer his boss is now Controller of German Stations, the job Bernard coveted, and his old friend Frank Harrington has stayed on as Berlin Controller to clean up the mess left by a network blown apart by the Stinnes affair. Nevertheless, despite every question about his wife's treachery being apparently resolved, Bernard still keeps digging and starts to uncover leads and secrets which point to a bigger web of treachery in London Central than he could ever have imagined.

How deep does the treachery go, he asks?

Forced to flee from the clutches of London Central, Bernard then asks himself a simple question about Fiona: is she still working for London? His answer sets up the story for the second book of the trilogy, Spy Line.

Why it's enjoyable

After a fantastic opening trilogy, the story is taken to a whole new depth by Deighton as the levels of treachery, chicanery and deception in London Central are revealed by the tenacious Samson, who finds himself at the centre of a growing maelstrom. Developing the character of Bernard further, the reader finds him at a low ebb on the run in Berlin, relying on his network of old friends and calling in favours as he starts to piece together the puzzle of the truth behind Fiona's defection.

It's a labyrinthine plot, but Deighton writes it in such a way that it's never baffling and can be read as a stand-alone spy thriller without the knowledge of what's gone before. But as the latest part of a mammoth plot, reading it is like peeling an onion: with each new chapter there's another revelation or plot twist that the reader never sees coming.

Sample dialogue

'"If you want my advice..." She slid off the bed and stood up. Having eased her shoes half off her feet she squeezed back into them, putting all her weight on first one foot then the other. "You should stop beating your head against a brick wall."

She smoothed her lapels and reached for her coat. "I think you want to destroy yourself. It's something to do with Fiona leaving you. Perhaps you feel guilty in some way."'

Related fact

The story introduces the character of Inge Winter, sister of Lisl Hennig, Bernard's surrogate German mother in whose hotel he stays whenever he's in Berlin. Elements of the back story of both Lisl, Werner's childhood and Bernard's father are sketched in in this books, stories which are developed more fully in Winter.

The front cover was designed again by Raymond Hawkey. But in a departure from the first trilogy, the covers of Spy Hook, Spy Line and Spy Sinker were all different designs.

SpyHook

Spy Hook, UK first edition, 1988

Deighton on Gloria Kent

"Gloria personifies the happy recklessness of youth that Bernard has lost.

Gloria completely understands Bernard's yearnings for stability, because she too feels she belongs nowhere"