Friday, 10 December 2004

Len Deighton: Faith (1994)

Edition: HarperCollins, 1995
Review number: 1277

The third and final trilogy about Bernard Samson follos more or less straight on from the concluding moments of the preceding novels, skipping over only the months of recovery and debriefing on a remote Californian ranch that follow the escape of Bernard's wife Fiona from East Berlin where she has been a highly placed agent of the British Secret Service. (The setting is still in the days before the demolishing of the Wall.) The confusion left to be sorted out is immense - Bernard, for example, had been living with another woman, believing that Fiona was a defecting traitor; Fiona's sister Tess has apparently been killed in the fight on the autobahn linking Berlin to the West that was organised to cover Fiona's escape; rumours are flying round the Secret Service and no one has any idea what Fiona's role will be when and if she returns to work. Deighton left few loose ends at the end of London Match, the final novel in the first trilogy, but little is resolved in Spy Sinker, by contrast - it is much more obvious that the story would have to continue.

There are really two strands to Faith, one of which initially doesn't seem to be connected to the main narrative. This is a mission that Bernard is sent on to East Germany, to make contact with an officer who has secrets to sell to the West. The other is a private investigation into what happened on the night of the fight and to Tessa's body launched by her husband; this is clearly going to make waves by attempting to uncover secrets that others will want to keep hidden.

While the story naturally grows out of what has gone before, there are some changes of emphasis. We are back here with Bernard as a narrator, which works better than the third person used in Spy Sinker. More oddly, there has been an important change in emphasis which has been made without comment. Earlier, the point of the fight was to make it look as though Fiona had been killed, so that the East Germans and Russians don't know that she was working against them all this time. But now she and Bernard are openly living in the Mayfair flat that belonged to Tessa, and she is starting a high profile job in the London office - surely not something that will be overlooked by the Russian and East German agents still in London, no matter how much their respective countries are sliding into the economic chaos that was the penultimate stage in the fall of Soviet Communism.

Faith is one of the more downbeat Deighton novels, even in a series which focuses on betrayal. It is low key because, like Mexico Set in the first trilogy, it is about picking up the pieces after a trauma and starting again.

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