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The Double Game

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,161 ratings  ·  222 reviews
A few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, spook-turned-novelist Edwin Lemaster revealed to up-and-coming journalist Bill Cage that he’d once considered spying for the enemy. For Cage, a Foreign Service brat who grew up in the very cities where Lemaster’s books were set, the news story created a brief but embarrassing sensation and heralded the beginning of the end of ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Knopf
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,161 ratings  ·  222 reviews

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Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
On the strength of having enjoyed Fesperman's debut novel (Lie in the Dark), I decided to pick this new one up to see if should hunt down his backlist. But it's never a good sign when a book lingers on my nightstand once I've cracked it open, and this one lingered for several months, generally failing to draw me into picking it back up. About 3/4 of the way though, I almost set it aside for good, but then like a desperate weekender at the casino, I threw good money (time) after bad and plowed on ...more
Philip Turner
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"The Double Game" by Dan Fesperman is a great read, the most enjoyable espionage novel I've read in years. It's also a veritable homage to spy fiction from decades past, with lines from earlier novels providing clues and plot points to the unfolding mystery. Terrific dialogue, characters, and suspense. Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta’s letter on the back cover of the galley is the truth: “For anyone who loves a good spy thriller–and who has loved them for years–this will be a treat.”

Update: I finish
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: spy/esponiage fans
Thoroughly entertaining, highly readable modern spy novel with the unique twist that its winding plot involves the works of past spy fiction writers. So, if, like me, you haven't gotten around to reading that many spy novels, this one will introduce you to many of the genre's masters as well as delivering a fun narrative. There's not a lot of gore and blood, but the 53-year-old protagonist is a likeable PR flack from Washington, D.C. who you want to root for to come out successfully. There's a h ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Unlikely Spy

Bill Cage has read all the espionage books. He grew up in Europe during the height of the cold war with his diplomat father so he’s not a foreigner to the concept of ‘tradecraft’ or the techniques of spying though he’s never seriously used them…..until now. After living in the States for most of his adult life he finds himself caught up in a return to Europe on a secret mission. He joins the chase partly for excitement, a little out of curiosity but mostly as a bid for redemption. As
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone acquainted with the spy novel genre
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: NPR's Nancy Pearl recommendation
Shelves: mystery, suspense, fiction
THE DOUBLE GAME is a suspenseful spy novel literally torn from the pages of the masters of the genre, Eric Ambler, John LeCarré , Len Deighton and Adam Hall. The main character, Bill Page, is, like his father Warfield, an avid fan of the genre and a collector of first editions. Much of Bill's childhood was spent visiting antiquarian booksellers with his father, and running errands to and from the shops in the great European capitals, Berlin, Prague, Belgrade and Vienna. Bill's father was a caree ...more
Aaron Cooley
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
A lifelong fan of spy novels is led through Europe by a series of clues pulled right from the pages of his favorite books in Dan Fesperman's THE DOUBLE GAME. If someone left you a riddle written on a page torn from your favorite book, would you drop everything and jet off to Europe? If your answer is a chuckle and a 'No,' then you probably won't make it past the first 50 pages of THE DOUBLE GAME. I applaud the author's intent, but the result is a contrived, laughable exercise that seems to posit ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: cold-war, spy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This book pays specific homage to many of the “spy” authors and thrillers of the last century or so, while trying to be one, itself. As opposed to “techno-thrillers” or the James Bonds of the genre, he emphasizes books based on real spycraft, the imperfect human beings who carry it out, as well as the puzzles they have to solve while trying to figure out on whom they can and can’t rely for honest answers.

Ironically, despite a good but overly complex plot, the premise seems totally unrealistic,
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: espionage
Befuddling in its complexity but superb if only for its bibliography. 200+ espionage titles there for the finding. (The list is organized chronologically and by author. The former is excellent if you seek Cold War espionage without 21st century Islamophobism.)
Andrew Cowen
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Truly an amazing book, and a quick read as well! A wonderful homage to spy novels in general, and the work of the master, John LeCarre.
Lynn Horton
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd give Fesperman's The Double Game 4.5 stars if I could. I seriously enjoyed this clever book and found myself smiling when I thought about it during the day, looking forward to picking it up again in the evening.

Using classic spy literature, the author constructs a well-woven thriller from a first-person perspective. The non-spy, who's recruited in a most unusual way, shares much about famous literary spies and real-life CIA operatives. Plus, the settings for this book intrigue me; I've been
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The (three now) books I’ve read by Dan Fesperman (The Arms Maker of Berlin, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows) have been excellent and this is no different. If you want to read how this sort of thing is done, read this. Or one of the others.

I’m thinking there’s a general feeling around right now, that spies and spying is/are back. In literary circles as well as real life. With the US President hopefuls and hangers on determined to glorify in their own stupidity (that’s not really relevant, I just
Toni Osborne
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
“The Double Game” is a thrilling old-school espionage novel with roots stemming from other authors works of art. The storyline is sprinkled with famous names such as John le Carre, William Buckley and many others. The plot is intellectual and action driven and mirrors what the layman perceives as the work of real spies such as the CIA during the Cold War Era. It plays on the idea that a best-selling novelist was actually a CIA agent deeply embedded with the KGB of the time. With skillfully devel ...more
Jim Mullen
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
This clever book is a giant wet kiss to the great spy novels of the Cold War by John Le Carré, Len Deighton, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett and Desmond Cory. Our middle-aged anti-hero, Bill Cage, grew up in string of European capitals as the young son of a American mid-level career diplomat during the 60s and though once a reporter he now makes a good, but boring, living in PR. Now, in 2010 following some mysterious clues, he revisits his childhood hangouts and slowly realizes that his father wa ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
I do like the idea of the book itself because it is a book lover's delight... It is a spy novel for spy novel lovers, and our unwilling hero, who grew up on spy novels, finds himself sucked into a dangerous odyssey simply because of the books he loved. That, I liked!
I also liked the layers of secrets, some of them pertaining to the people closest to him, he is finally able to see through. I would have liked to have been afforded some time to understand why our hero has been so blind up to this p
Geo Forman
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not your typical spy novel. Rather an homage to spy novels. A writer, born to a diplomat stationed in Europe, is a lover of spy novels. A love inspired by his dad, a book collector. Now, fifty years later, he is dragged into some sort of intrigue using book excerpts as clues. I love a novel that mentions other novels because I think it implies the author's admiration of those books and are clues to potential future reads. At times, I had to remind myself this was a spy novel. It was more of a my ...more
Dec 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I was really caught off guard with all the spy book references. By the end, though, It just made you really appreciate the book genre. Imagine my surprise with the extensive list of books at the end!

Quick read. I wasn't totally satisfied with the book but its revelations weren't always predictable. Decent writing.

I'm still trying to figure out why it was given such high praise on NPR.

I would recommend but this is more a summer or winter break read.

Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I have read by this author and found it very well written.
A story about spies and their secrets, fathers and sons, lovers and fate, duplicity and loyalty, The Double Game ingeniously taps the espionage classics of the Cold War to build a spellbinding maze of intrigue.
Brilliant and fun take on the "spy novel". More detailed review (hopefully) to come soon. ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Winston Churchill said it best, and I paraphrase, this is "an enigma wrapped up inside a puzzle inside a conundrum." Dan Fesperman leads us through The Double Game, an exercise wherein life copies art or makes believable attempts to do so. How, you might well ask? Fesperman introduces us to Bill Cage, a foreign service brat who had lived in several European cities with his diplomat father. Cage pere was/is a lover of spy novels, an interest he passed down to his son. Bill has as assignment to wr ...more
Jamie Neve
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall I found this to be an engrossing book. It took a while to really grab me but the plot moved along well and the references to other spy thrillers made for a fun idea. Having the main character as a 50-something man made a nice change from the usual younger men who are able to muscle their way out of incidents or are experts with an array of weaponry. On the odd occasion, and I can only think of one right now, that he has to take direct action he is genuinely surprised he managed it. The c ...more
This book wasn't quite what I expected. It is not a traditional espionage story. Bill Cage, the protagonist, is not a professional spy. Rather, he is a former journalist who at the age of 53 works in Washington DC for a public relations firm and lives in Georgetown, where his house is filled with his lifetime collection of espionage thrillers.

For some reason that is unclear to Bill (and also to this reader), he is chosen by some mysterious "handler" to follow a set of instructions found in pages
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a sort of homage to Cold War spy novels. The hero, who had been brought up in various European capitals by a father in the State Department, is sent on a sort of spy mission by a mysterious handler whose messages to him are oblique passages cut from Cold War spy novels that he and his father had read and collected. He isn't sure exactly what the mission is. This reader (and probably most others) felt as confused as the hero does on his quest. I was relieved that there is a comprehensibl ...more
Michelle Ule
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
An unusual book choice for me--a spy novel. I don't think I've read one in a generation.

But this is more than a spy novel, it a spy novel about spy novels and includes a dazzling array of references to books of the past, only a few of which I'd read.

Still, it kept me turning the pages--in part because Fesperman describes European cities I've recently visited in a deep knowing way. I'm glad he agreed with my point that Prague looks completely different in 2018 than it did when we both first visit
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fesperman
finished this afternoon of the 22nd of february 2020 good read fours stars really liked it kindle library loaner, has a long long list of "spy" stories, i'd been highlighting them as they were mentioned throughout but there is a list provided two ways, by date second and by...something...author, first, a plus. will look for some more from fesperman...and...considering the list, i'd have to look to be sure but there is at least one off the top of my hat that is not on the list...if there i'll com ...more
Jim Loter
A serviceable espionage novel with the twist that an amateur is sent on a wild goose through Eastern Europe with clues and orders derived from his favorite old spy novels. His mission is seemingly to discover if a respected former CIA agent and author had been a double agent during the Cold War. The book is great fun for fans of the genre because of its many references and extensive bibliography, but suffers from an uncompelling protagonist, long stretches of expository dialog, and implausible c ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommend if you enjoy spies, secret European agencies at wartime, etc. Author writes great spy novels and this was my second read - interesting with twists and turns but I think I need to read it again as there were names thrown around (code names as well) which confused me for long stretches, but I was able to still enjoy the read and catch up. This is one you have to pay special detail to, easy to lose you in the names.
Jennifer Bowers
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I used to devour the Cold War spy novels of LeCarre, MacInnes and others. The spy genre just hasn't been the same since The Wall fell! This is the story of such an enthusiast in the 21st c. who is caught up in a game modeled after scenes from all his favorite books. He visits haunts familiar to all such readers, like Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin. But when people start dying, he realizes it's not a game, it's real life! ...more
The central idea to incorporate spy novels in a central role of the plot was quite charming. Double Game is a love letter to the spy genre of the Cold War. Too bad it's a rather boring, low stakes plot and a homage to an overated and dated genre. Some twists, however, were worthwhile and put a tongue-in-cheek layer on the whole thing. That made it a readable, although not terribly engaging book. ...more
Justin Low
Sep 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, spy
This was an enjoyable read.
The story was quaint which I mostly appreciated. Occasionally the protagonist is brilliant, other times a fool.
The story was a little too self involved in areas, (like a movie about making movies: a spy novel about being a spy novel enthusiast) but perhaps that's just a smart entrance to the genre (a nod to the greats).
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Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Asso ...more

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