Mexico Set, the second in Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match espionage trilogy featuring Bernard Samson is, like the other books in the trilogy (and indeed like the books in the other two Sansom trilogies which succeed it), also meant to work as a stand alone novel. Although that’s mostly true for Mexico Set (and far more so than for some of the later books), the continuity not only in characters but plotting makes it well worth reading Berlin Game first.
That does mean that Mexico Set will suffer slightly by comparison, for it isn’t as tightly plotted and tense as its predecessor, taking often a much more gentle – though still good – amble through the characters and the Mexico backdrop for much of the book.
What Deighton excels at all in this book as in others in the series is his plotting that is like scratching away at an itch. Len Deighton keeps on having his characters coming back to ponder over the same events again and again, with the perspectives about who was telling the truth and who was being a traitor often changing as new evidence brings up new doubts over where the truth really lies.
He does that well in this volume – especially over whether or not Erich Stinnes is really a would-be KGB defector or is a plant. He also sets up more of the itches that the characters come back to scratch again and again in later volumes – and some of the later twists are all the more satisfying for the reader – and key characters – having first been led up the garden path on key facts in the earlier books.
So enjoy reading this Sansom volume – but keeping reading too in order to get the most enjoyment out of the plot.
If you’re looking for a printed version of the book, I rather prefer the 1980s paperback versions with their fruit-based covers for the Game / Set / Match trilogy to the cover artwork of the 21st century reissues. If you like audio books, then once again James Lailey does a cracking job which makes the audio version really enjoyable.
If you like this, you might also be interested in The Defection of AJ Lewinter.