“There’s often a world of difference between what things mean, and what they are supposed to mean.”
This is only going to be a short one (“phew!”), as even though it was by the (otherwise) great Len Deighton, it really didn’t connect with me in any meaningful way. I don’t feel as though I’ve ever really got to know the two main characters. Nor any of the minor ones. I never really felt attached to them in any meaningful way.
A Soviet (we’re back on the Cold War period here), is defecting (rather than defective), as – he says – he wants the freedom to search for life on other planets. The intelligence officers handling the defection, have other ideas and are looking carefully at him, wondering if he might be a plant. Or is it his wife? The main man on ‘our’ side is an American, with a British intelligence officer playing the stooge, his number two. Things go all kinds of wrong, of course, and the story goes racing over from the Sahara, to the US, Paris, Dublin and then ends up back in the Sahara desert. I think you’re supposed to think the Englishman, is ‘Harry Palmer’ from ‘The Ipcress File’, etc. I didn’t realise that until I read something about it afterwards. So that didn’t make much of an impression, did it?
For all the blurb on the jacket (of the hardback, Book Club Associates version I have) about it revealing ‘a more mature Deighton’ and it being ‘as compelling as it is tantalising’ nothing you could tie it down to or point to in the text, it really wasn’t either. It was a strangely slight tale that was was there and then it was gone. Short, but really not so sharp. Or particularly sweet.