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Berlin Game (Bernard Samson #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,490 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
When a valuable agent behind the Iron Curtain signals he wants out, it's up to Bernard Samson, once active in the field but now anchored to a London desk, to undertake the crucial rescue. But soon, Samson is confronted with evidence that there is a traitor among his colleagues. And to find out who it is, he must sift through layers of lies and follow a web of treachery fro ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 10th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1983)
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Tim
Jul 09, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
The first in the epic Samson series of ten books.
Deighton says that each was a novel in its own right even though each featured the same revolving set of characters dependent on location and date.
One of Deightons loves, Berlin, heavily featured in this and many of the others.
The earlier part of the series I very much enjoyed, Samson, exasperating at times, a mans man, but apparently attractive to many women.
If you don't like the agent/spy genre you may still like this, it's possibly unlike any o
...more
Tracyk
Jul 21, 2012 Tracyk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful Cold War spy story. With a wow finish.

This book is the first in the Bernard Samson series. There are 9 books in the series. Three trilogies. I have read 5 out of 9 of them.

A lot of the book is dialog and I have a prejudice against books that are heavy on dialog. I enjoyed this one, so it may have to do with the overall style of writing. (Or maybe I should revisit my prejudice.) It helps that there is lots of humor and Bernard is aiming barbs at his bosses and at himself. And the stor
...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 03, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in August 2004.

While no one who read The Ipcress File could deny that Len Deighton was one of the great spy fiction writers, several of his other novels seem quite tired. With Berlin Game, and indeed the whole of the Game, Set and Match trilogy, everything came together once again; this story would no doubt join Deighton's debut in many fans' lists of the absolute top spy stories. It is not surprising that Bernard Samson dominated the rest of Deighton's outpu
...more
John Defrog
Aug 02, 2013 John Defrog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first volume in the first trilogy starring British agent Bernard Samson, a former field agent now working a desk in London, who is asked to go back into the field after a valuable contact in East Berlin, known as Brahms Four, demands to defect to the West. Samson’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to convince Brahms Four to stay put. Having read and enjoyed Deighton’s Harry Palmer novels, this took a little getting used to – narration-wise, Samson is similar to Palmer in tone, but ...more
David
Oct 06, 2011 David rated it liked it
Not bad. I still haven't made up my mind as to what makes a viable spy novel.

1. Being able to guess the end/the betrayal is not a problem. Spy novels make better why/how done its than who done its.
2. Sex and violence - they can be useful, but they can also be avoided - there's very little of either in this one. I can't imagine a spy novel without alcohol consumption.
3. I don't think the plot needs to be truly plausible, but it can't be romantic in a schoolboy sort of way. Truly heroic charact
...more
Ensiform
Dec 10, 2011 Ensiform rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The story of Bernard Samson, a field agent for MI6, surrounded by incompetent, glory-grubbing superiors who have held desk jobs all their lives and can’t speak German fluently. Set-up: there’s a leak in Berlin Station, and London’s main informant wants out, so it’s up to Bernie to get him. Although the various plots are complicated (the financial explanations, especially, to me), I guessed the “twist” ending quite a bit before it was revealed. A time-filler of a book, nicely done, but the two-di ...more
Geoff Seymour
Jun 11, 2012 Geoff Seymour rated it liked it
I often forget about the cold war these days, I forget that there was a country split down the middle and that there was this giant wall that separated the East from the West in the middle of a city. This books brings all of that back to me, the politics, the machinations, the passing of secrets and the striving for dominance without actually dominating.
I enjoyed it, it is the first time I have read this in probably 20 years, but I fell into it quickly and remembered the characters. Sadly I rem
...more
Zoe Carney
Apr 05, 2015 Zoe Carney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I spent time thinking about a book when I wasn't reading it, but this book managed to draw me in. Cleverly plotted, interesting characters, and beautifully evocative world-building; this could almost be a spy thriller from the height of the Cold War, but with enough modernity to ground in the 1980s rather than the '60s.

What sets it apart (for me) is that the female characters have actual, hand-on-heart agency. The protagonist and many of the characters are still male, bu
...more
Patrick Noble
Mar 18, 2014 Patrick Noble rated it liked it
Deighton has written some of the greatest thrillers ever to be penned. Berlin Game, the beginning of the Samson series, is generally regarded as the peak of his game. I'm not convinced the book has aged as well as his other works. It's still a good read but I think Iprcess File, Billion Dollar Brain and the other books in the Samson series stand the test of time better. You need this one to read the others but it's not his best.
Arun Divakar
Dec 28, 2015 Arun Divakar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Offices in theory are places you work productively, shoulder effort as a team and put in a lot of backbreaking work to help make life easy for your customer/customers. And yet since what you are doing is in putting together a diverse group of people a good 8-10 hours of a day, there are bound to be a lot of interactions that you never asked for. There is the usual politics, jostling for positions, gossip, grape vine, the occasional fling and the usual drama of human life. Why would an intelligen ...more
Viktor
Jan 18, 2016 Viktor rated it it was amazing
In writing this review, I raised my rating from 4 to 5*s, because I realized a few things about Bernie and just what the book was really about.

I watched the TV series before I read this book. As a previous reviewer here said, the TV series is horribly miscast. Ian Holm to start with. Self-described in the book as "tall", Ian Holm is not tall. Even on the Hobbit level. To be fair, he's great here, as are the other horribly miscast characters. So let's shift gears and move on with it.

The first 7
...more
Nathaniel
Dec 20, 2015 Nathaniel rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage
So, I waited a little too long to write up this review, and now I'm going to have a hard time remembering everything I wanted to.. (Hey, I tend to write long reviews, so that might not be such a bad thing.)

So, it took me a while to understand that this book is written with the assumption that the audience is smart. Until I was confident of that, I wasn't quite sure what to think about it. There are just a lot of scenes where what the characters say is pretty much opposite to what they think, and
...more
Thomas
Feb 23, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it
I got started on Deighton's Bernard Sampson "trilogy of trilogies" by coming across the second installment, Mexico Set in the dollar bin at my local used book store. Well, that one was good enough that I've decided to work my way through the series. What I like about them they are "smart" spy fiction like LeCarré: These books are about spies who ply their trade with their wits and personal connections, rather than cutting-edge gadgets. But Sampson is a much more down to earth character than Smil ...more
Daniel Cunha
Aug 08, 2011 Daniel Cunha rated it really liked it
A Cold War espionage favorite. On re-reading this after almost 15 years, still read fresh enough. Bernie Samson is close enough to LeCarré's Smiley, albeit with more of a field man approach, to be up there among the best characters in cold-war lit. Berlin comes to life like it rarely has in other genre novels. And the twists and truns are well built, with a lot left to be unravelled in the future instalments. The end is a cold-war classic finale, well executed by one of the genre's masters at hi ...more
Linda
Remember these titles: "Berlin Game" "Mexico Set" "London Match"
"Spy Hook" "Spy Line" "Spy Sinker"

All by Len Deighton. All with protagonist Bernard Samson. Read them in that order, but READ THEM!

You know those kinds of novels that you love so much you mourn the loss of them when you're done reading them? Yeah, that's what this series is. I haven't yet read the next trilogy "Faith" "Hope" and "Charity", but I'm counting on you, Len! Don't let me down!
Jose Vera
Apr 21, 2014 Jose Vera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quizás la única cosa que realmente se puede extrañar de la guerra fría son novelas como esta.

“El juego de Berlín” nos lleva a Alemania de los setenta. Cuando El Muro dividía el mundo en dos ideologías contrapuestas y las tensiones entre Oriente y Occidente nos tenían en un precario equilibrio.

Bernard Samson es un espía británico cuarentón que no ha prosperado en su carrera, tiene buenos contactos en Berlín pues conoce la cuidad desde la infancia poco antes que se levantara El Muro, pero Bernard
...more
Moe  Shinola
Jan 29, 2012 Moe Shinola rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended! Deighton is slightly less terse than Thomas Harris but only in the right places. He really puts your senses into cold war-era Berlin and London. The character of Bernard Sampson is unforgettable, and the supporting cast is great too. You really start to take on the suspicious, world-weary attitude of Sampson by the end of this book, it's communicated that well.
Jak60
Dec 23, 2015 Jak60 rated it really liked it
I always have been and still am a huge fan of good old Cold War spy-stories, those where espionage is a cerebral game played with patience and intellect more than the stereotyped all-action/shooting/running/fighting played by the super-duper special hero-agent kind of thing.
So far the best, and probably unparalleled, expression of the genre was for me the early Le Carré; I have been looking for authors and stories of similar style and equivalent quality for a long time with very limited satisfac
...more
Andy Theyers
Mar 13, 2014 Andy Theyers rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller
Given the current world situation it seemed like an ideal time to look into some of the classic cold war fiction.

I'm glad I did. This is beautifully done and is less, well, "cold" than I was expecting. The plot fair tears along, the twists come at just the right (wrong?) moments and Bernard Sampson is an ideal protagonist.
Carl Yirka
Feb 02, 2015 Carl Yirka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's nothing better than reading a thriller on vacation. This was even better in my case as I read this at the Hotel Cacao in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Had my timing been better I would have read the second volume in this series, Mexico Set.
I had of course known of Len Deighton for many years, but somehow had not gotten around to reading his books. Until now.
In the introduction to Berlin Game, Deighton points out that spy novels have protagonists who have no family. Setting himself the goal
...more
Kw
Feb 16, 2014 Kw rated it liked it
I don't know if it's his stories that ensnare me, or the unexpected little witticisms and jabs of humor, but I do enjoy it all. This was slower than some for me, but I'm going on to the next in the set very soon, nonetheless.
Mark McKay
Feb 10, 2015 Mark McKay rated it really liked it
Shelves:
I first read this years ago and enjoyed it immensely then. They had a TV adaptation in the UK, but Len Deighton didn't like the casting and bought the distribution rights so it was never repeated. Pity, as I recall enjoying that too.

This is a spy novel which is well paced and told from Bernard Samson's point of view. There is some lovely and funny dialogue, especially between Bernard, his wife Fiona, and her sister Tessa. Deighton writes with a keen sense of humour. Berlin plays a big part in th
...more
Jim Leckband
I've been spoiled by my project of reading all of John le Carré. But just like listening to Mozart's contemporaries (except for Haydn!), you realize what an outsize gift a genius has. "Berlin Game" is an espionage tale told in '80's Berlin when it is becoming evident that East Germany is not going to last forever. Most of the story is spent on plot and a little on socio-cultural topics as they come up, not as much as le Carré, but more than, say Tom Clancy. If I was an espionage junkie, I would ...more
Tim Prosser
Feb 13, 2014 Tim Prosser rated it really liked it

Bernard Samson, a middle-aged British Intelligence Officer in the 1970’s, former field agent in Berlin but now riding a desk back in London. Nine books chart his history with vivid characterization, suspense, the occasional bit of off-beat humour, intricate plotting, betrayals, and redemptions. The same set of characters, both the good and bad guys, basically move from book to book, allowing Mr Deighton to gradually fill-in their complexities, so that the books are far deeper than many spy novel
...more
Darren
Jun 06, 2014 Darren rated it really liked it
My first first into Deighton and what a good read. To a modern audience this book may appear dated but it is a product of its time. Deighton shows that a thrilling spy novel does not have to involve violence and sex on every page. Deighton takes the time to build the characters and uses his evident knowledge of the locations to good effect. I found this book kept me interested and made me want to find out more about the back stories of the characters, so much so I read the trilogy one after the ...more
Carol
Jun 10, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, 2014, espionage
A good old fashioned, cold war spy story, told through the first person narrative, with the protagonist looking for a 'mole' in MI6 and set during the heart of cold war, in the 1970's. The subtle interactions between the personalities, the mostly off-stage action, and the machinations of the plot are so beautifully balanced that it's a good read and quick to progress to the conclusion. Love it, a great spy novel, that has lost nothing through the passage of time. Looking forward to the next book ...more
Kelanth
Feb 02, 2016 Kelanth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spionaggio
Gioco a Berlino, in originale "Berlin Game", è un romanzo di spionaggio del 1983, dell'autore inglese Len Deighton. La sua produzione letteraria spazia dai romanzi di spionaggio e di suspense, ai libri di cucina e ai saggi storici. È il creatore del personaggio Harry Palmer, una spia britannica protagonista di una serie di romanzi e di film interpretati da Michael Caine. Tutti gli appassionati di spy-stories ricordano la figura di Michael Caine con gli occhiali e l'impermeabile. E' Harry Palmer, ...more
Maria
Jan 13, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My dad has been going on about these novels for decades; some of his most treasured possessions are his old VHS tapes of the Ian Holm series. Being in Germany at the moment inspired me to finally read one. Berlin Game is basically everything you want and expect from a Cold War thriller. I love how vividly Deighton paints Berlin. Its character comes across well, and I truly bought Bernard's history with the city. There's also a certainty about it all; the characters certainly think the Wall is th ...more
Justus
Sep 18, 2010 Justus rated it liked it
Nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking here but I found it a solid chunk of entertainment. Despite being a "spy" novel it has a very sedate pace that I really liked. This isn't all frenetic Jason Bourne (movie version) running around doing crazy stuff.

I thought the twist surprise at the end was pretty obvious from quite a ways out. Unfortunately it raises a lot of questions about Bernard's life before the book begins.

Apparently this is part of a trilogy (or perhaps even 10-book series).

One
...more
Teresa
Jun 18, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A spy story not only set in Berlin before the falling of the Wall but written at a time when it felt the Wall would be a permanent symbol of the differences between East and West. This does make a huge difference, there is none of the arch knowingness that appears in some novels that are set in this period but written after the fall of the Wall.

Bernie Sampson is a British spy, the son of a British spy, married to a British spy. He grew up in Berlin and knows it intimately. A source in Eat Berli
...more
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Deighton was born in Marylebone, London, in 1929. His father was a chauffeur and mechanic, and his mother was a part-time cook.After leaving school, Deighton worked as a railway clerk before performing his National Service, which he spent as a photographer for the Royal Air Force's Special Investigation Branch. After discharge from the RAF, he studied at St Martin's School of Art in London in 1949 ...more
More about Len Deighton...

Other Books in the Series

Bernard Samson (9 books)
  • Mexico Set (Bernard Samson, #2)
  • London Match (Bernard Samson, #3)
  • Spy Hook (Bernard Samson, #4)
  • Spy Line (Bernard Samson, #5)
  • Spy Sinker (Bernard Samson, #6)
  • Faith (Bernard Samson, #7)
  • Hope (Bernard Samson, #8)
  • Charity (Bernard Samson, #9)

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