Picks and Pans Review: Mexico Set

updated 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/04/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Len Deighton

The story begun in Berlin Game continues, but it certainly isn't necessary to have read that earlier Deighton novel to enjoy this new bang-up spy thriller. British agent Bernard Sampson goes to Mexico with his boss and learns that a Soviet agent is nosing around too. Sampson is told that London wants him to persuade this Soviet agent to defect, although Sampson himself is under a cloud at home because his wife has gone over to the Soviets. Deighton's characters are wonderfully well drawn, from stuffy British amateur spies to a wealthy German tool of the KGB ("Paul Biedermann had become unreservedly American in a way that only Germans are able to do"). The locations—smog-choked, poverty-ridden Mexico City and a tension-wracked Berlin—are superb. Deighton, author of The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and several other spy novels, is in top form. It's great fun to have an agent who can say, "It's the game.... It's nothing to do with virtue and evil, or effort and reward, it's just a game." An awfully good game it is too, the way Deighton plays it. (Knopf, $16.95)

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