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Berlin Game (Bernard Samson #1)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  8,607 Ratings  ·  255 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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Lech Walesa


Description: 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 from London to Berlin until hero and traitor collide.

Sep 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Len Deighton was a prolific writer. (He's still alive, but not writing.) Between 1962 and 1996 he wrote twenty-six novels, a book of short stories, a book of aviation history, four histories of World War II, several cookbooks, and at least three electronic books. His most famous books are the series about "Harry Palmer" (Michael Caine's character's name in three spy movies, but not in the six novels, starting with "The Ipcress File" and ending with "Spy Story"), the two stand alone spy novels (" ...more
Paul  Perry
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Deighton is considered one of the triumvirate of great British espionage novelists, along with Ian Fleming and John le Carré and, like le Carre, someone who portrayed spycraft and the Cold War in realistic detail. While I was familiar with the adaptations of his books - the Harry Palmer films, beginning with The Ipcress File and starring Michael Caine, and several TV miniseries in the 80s - I’d never read him. The screen versions may be partly to blame; I came to reading espionage and thrillers ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favourite Deighton books, and of course, his masterpiece series. This series equals the Smiley books (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and etc) by Le Carré.

I got the Game, Set & Match videos on CD-ROM (!) shortly after it's single broadcast (which took an incredible hassle to get), which Deighton then banned forever.

I read the books as they were published, and extraordinarily as the Wall came down. Prescient writing. Wow.

I also met Ian Holm by chance at the BBC White City rece
Aug 14, 2012 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
Bradley West
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, thrillers
What a great start to the Bernard Samson series, so much so that my appetite for more titles sustained me through the very good "Mexico Set" and then the less intriguing "London Match". Like many of Deighton's works, his deep knowledge of Berlin gives the reader a you-are-there experience. The complex relationships in head office, his doubts about his wife and the pressure of the field all play credibly through Samson's mind.

Meanwhile, there's a British mole to be extracted from the East while t
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller, brit-lit
Sprinkled in like seasoning in Len Deighton's masterful spy thrillers are delightful sentences like, "it wasn't his fault that he bore a superficial resemblance to my father-in-law, but I found it a definite barrier." The Berlin Game is a taut and sophisticated thriller that brings the reader inside the desk job lives of British Intelligence as well as behind the Berlin Wall circa 1980.

As in seemingly all human endeavors, intelligence services are rife with office politics and jockeying for pos
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Simon Mcleish
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Brad Lyerla
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
BERLIN GAME is an exceptionally fine espionage novel. It was written a number of years ago and was the debut of Len Deighton's popular character, Bernie Samson.

This is the first time that I have read Deighton and I loved it. I already have the next in the Samson series on my night stand and cannot wait to get started.
Sep 17, 2011 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
John Defrog
Jun 30, 2013 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
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy
I had read all of Len Deighton's powerful "Harry Palmer" quartet, so I decided to give his Bernard Samson novels a chance, starting with Berlin Game. The upshot was that I found it interesting, though just a tad short of his earlier work.

One interesting thing about Deighton's spy heroes: One is never privy to what goes on inside their minds. As the reader, you see their puzzlement as to problems that emerge; but the end always comes as a big surprise. The result is a set of books that are like f
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller, fiction
Len Deighton wrote a great many books the quality of which varies from the dread inspiring Bomber to some pretty schlocky rubbish. The Berlin Game is definetly one of his finer efforts. Samson is a pleasingly nuanced hero in a genre where these can be in short supply. In the first of a trilogy of trilogies he sent back over the wall into a still divided Berlin to persuade a spy to remain in place.

So far so normal, what makes the book so enjoyable are the twists and turns poor Samson is subjected
Arun Divakar
Dec 22, 2015 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
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful tale of bickering and backstabbing in British intelligence with a shocking denouement in which a traitorous Soviet agent is revealed to be working at the heart of the Establishment. All the British characters in this story are members of Britain's Establishment - mostly upper middle class men with University backgrounds who all think they know what's best for Britain - and the World. Len Deighton's "hero" in this book - Bernard Samson - is similar to his previous secret agent, Harry ...more
Dec 10, 2011 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
May 23, 2012 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
Patrick Noble
Mar 17, 2014 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.
DeAnna Knippling
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twisty and ofbservant, although I felt wrung out keeping track of some of the details toward the end.
Tom Swift
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow, that was a great read. If you're into old time spy stuff, this for you. This is my first book from this prolific author. The story hinges around Bernard Samson, a British intelligence officer who is in the middle of extricating a spy from the East.

Zoe Carney
Apr 01, 2015 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
Patrick (TheKoolKandy)
Not a bad book, and so I gave it 3 stars rather than something lower, but it's definitely not something that interests me. Coming from the 80s, taking place during the Cold War, and following characters in their middle years, there's not much that's relatable to me. Everyone's always cheating, drinking, smoking, and generally participating in the classism that drives British society. It certainly is a counter to what I imagine as "spy fiction" though, and I expect I'll be reading more of the sho ...more
John Gribbin
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I was surprised at how little this book stirred me. It is competently written, but anyone familiar with the genre will spot the twist, such as it is, very early on. And since it is the first part of a trilogy featuring the main character, we know perfectly well that no harm will come to him. I guess at the time it was published, when Berlin was still a divided city, there was some mileage in Deighton's portrayal of the Cold War atmosphere. But now it is as much a period piece as Pride and Prejud ...more
Daniel Cunha
Aug 08, 2011 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
Mavis Thresher
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Berlin Game is a 1983 spy novel by Len Deighton. It is the first novel in the first of three trilogies about Bernard Samson, a middle-aged and somewhat jaded intelligence officer working for the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). At one point I thought I was reading a Le Carre book because the writing is very intelligent and Deighton seems to have insights into the working of MI6. However, he's somewhat easier to read than Le Carre who can be somewhat oblique. Now, I can't wait to read t ...more
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Moe  Shinola
Jan 29, 2012 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.
Andy Theyers
Mar 04, 2014 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.
Feb 16, 2014 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.
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Book Club: Berlin Game 1 4 Oct 02, 2016 12:32PM  
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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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“Perhaps all fear is worse than reality, just as all hope is better than fulfilment.” 7 likes
“That was one of the problems of marrying into wealth; there were no luxuries.” 4 likes
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