The Scholars of Night

Tor: Starscape. Sept. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781250269171. $18.99. THRILLER
Ford, who died in 2006, was best known for science fiction and fantasy (Growing Up Weightless; The Dragon Waiting), but this reprint of a 1988 novel hearkens back to the classics of Cold War–era espionage thrillers. The Scholars of Night were the real-life historians who worked hand-in-glove with the intelligence services—the CIA, MI5, and MI6—solving problems past and present, undercover and under the radar. Ford’s complex, convoluted spy thriller follows one games master, American college professor and covert op Allan Berenson, along with his protégé Nicholas Hansard and his lover Ellen Maxwell. After Berenson’s death at the hands of the agency most responsible for his work and his ultimate disenchantment with it, Maxwell and Hansard attempt to play—or thwart—his last game. All the while, they are shadowed by their enemies, their masters, and each other. The riddle they’re attempting to solve reaches all the way back to the dawn of modern spycraft, buried within the lines of a long-ago secret agent who was more famous for the plays he put on the stage than the acts he carried out for queen and country backstage.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers looking for classic spy stories such as those by John le Carré and Len Deighton, because this work stands up to the best of the genre.
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