You know how all the time authors are banging out spy thrillers which are compared favourably to John Le Carré, and you buy it and read it and it is a damp squib compared to the master? Well this book really is as good – if not better – than Le Carré. Huzzah!
There are only two downsides: the first is that Brierley’s output of novels is relatively small – a mere twelve. The second is that he is a contemporary of Le Carré being born in 1936 (Le Carré was born in 1931), working in the same field, at very much the same sort of quality, and has been largely eclipsed. Such a shame! Was there really not room for two?
As far as character depiction and Cold War plotting goes, I think (for me) Brierley may just edge it. Czechmate is, apparently his most popular – thus, possibly, his best novel. I was bowled over by it, and kept up nights by it.
It was published first in 1984 and acknowledges Glasnost. Being set in Czechoslovakia before the Balkans war of the Nineties, it is interesting now as much for being a historical document as for being a page-turning spy novel. The author obviously knows the area and its history well. Spy fiction being dependent on the bluff and double bluff I cannot say much about the plot without dropping massive spoilers.
All Brierley’s spy novels are on Kindle and can be fettled also on paper (second hand), having been reissued by Lume Books in 2015. If you enjoy spy fiction and are a haunter of second hand book shops, it will be worth keeping an eye out there.
Perhaps appropriately, there is no mention of David Brierley, author, on Wikipedia. Nor any proper biography of him on the web that I can find. Fantastic Fiction carries a few details here: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/david-brierley/. From this I have gleaned that his first novel in the ‘Cody’ series (a female spy) was published in 1979. His last novel was published in 2000. A volume of short fiction was published in 2012.
If you enjoy spy thrillers, Czechmate is well worth your time. I shall certainly be seeking out more of Brierley’s books.