Charity is a book unlike any other in the Bernard Samson series. It not only stands on it’s own merits as you could read this without any of the others, but it also concludes the trilogy started by Faith and Hope and concludes the overall series that started with the Game, Set, and Match trilogy.
It does all of these things well, too. Bernard Samson is still the lovable curmudgeon of a lead character for an espionage thriller. Per usual for his character and this series, he’s simultaneously following orders and doing his own thing.
At play in this final installment are careers, a wife, a girlfriend, a best friend, children, and of course money, greed, and ego. And why not? This book has everything. It is not only a wonderful ending to the series, but if read first, would be an amazing introduction to the characters and the series.
In fact, in a world where this is the first Bernard Samson book you read, you would be very tempted to go back and find out more, but for me, this is the end of that journey. That did put a downer on this book for me, as it is the end of the road for me and Bernard, but that’s a lament for another time.
However, I must mention that when I finished reading this book, I not only finished reading the Faith, Hope, and Charity trilogy, I also completed reading all of the books within the Samsonverse. So when I say that Charity feels much faster, I have a lot to compare it to. Additionally, when compared to the trilogy ending books of Match and Sinker, Charity itself starts on a moving train with a momentum that carries throughout the remainder of the book.
Yet there is one thing that to me is the most intriguing part of this book. Charity may be perhaps the most romantic book in the entire Bernard Samson franchise. Some of it is illicit and some of it is for the love of a person or a career, but it’s got something that reminds me of the romance Deighton put into Goodbye Mickey Mouse – to me, one of his most romantic works.
Of course, this is espionage and even the most overt romantic notions are layered under covert actions, but it’s there. I must admit, as unorthodox as this may be, I have to recommend Charity as one of the must reads in this series and perhaps, it should be your first.
I’m all for starting at the beginning, but if you can’t be bothered or if the idea of getting into the series is too daunting, then just go straight for Charity.
I’d like to leave you with a sense for Bernard Samson and Len Deighton.
To truly understand Bernard you only have to see his reply to his best friend Werner in this exchange:
“You don’t have to be a bad-tempered pig all the time, Bernard,” said Werner stiffly. “You can take an evening off, and try being human.”
“I tried it once; I didn’t like it.”
And to understand Len Deighton and all that he has put into his novels, know that many of his characters are pragmatists, which is why sentences like “It’s always bad luck to be good at something you don’t want to do – or something dangerous,” appear in his novels often when they are most necessary.