The Bottom Line: Spy Game screenwriter Michael Frost Beckner resurrects timeless Cold War tradecraft in a new must-read series.
Muir’s Gambit, a prequel to the classic espionage film Spy Games starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, is set 48 hours prior to the original. The book returns familiar characters Nathan Muir and Tom Bishop, and introduces a new protagonist, CIA attorney Russell Aiken.
Once Muir’s protégé, Aiken is still stinging from being cast aside by Muir and replaced by Tom Bishop. So when retired CIA legend Charlie March is murdered on his boat and the evidence points to Muir (who interestingly, was also once March’s protégé), Aiken is all too eager to confront him and deliver payback.
But Muir, a master of spycraft and recruitment, is a cool customer. He knows how to deftly handle Aiken when he shows up, calmly offering a glass of scotch, a respite from the storm and the teasing of a confession. Aiken hopes for a feather in his Agency cap with the elimination of Muir, but instead finds that Muir is many moves ahead and has already set into motion a dangerous, high-stakes game that leaves Aiken only 24 hours to master its rules and plays.
In the tradition of the best espionage novels, author Michael Frost Beckner’s novel is a story of allegiances — those that endure, those that break and those that leave far more questions than answers. And Aiken, whose wife was caught in bed with another man, is seemingly as vulnerable as he was when recruited by Muir in college. But Muir has plenty of his own pain points as well. It’s the tense, taut interplay between these two spies as they seek to expose cracks in each other, the Agency and the very notion of the Cold War that may prove to be either their undoing or salvation.
Thanks to Beckner’s engrossing narrative structure and carefully crafted prose, readers are in for a treat. Throughout, the book is filled with mindful touches that will delight readers. As one small example, we were impressed by the interior graphics that appear at the beginning of each new section of the novel.
Let’s hope the new book series finds its way to a streaming service soon.