Ex-assassin Mark Fraser is pulled into a race to prove his innocence in the latest Jack Gerson adaptation
‘The Treachery Game’ takes place one year after the events of ‘The Assassination Run’. Mark Fraser and his wife Jill are taking a well-deserved holiday. But when Mark is implicated in the murder of an eminent biologist, the couple must beat a hasty exit. From there, Mark must trek across Southern France, avoid detection and protect his wife to track down the real killer. But who could have set him up so expertly and what do they really want? Big Finish has taken Jack Gerson’s follow-up novel and turned out a thrilling chase adventure.
The Treachery Game
Needless to say, this is a follow up to the previous Jack Gerson story we reviewed last week. When ‘The Assassination Run‘ was commissioned for a second series, Gerson decided to spin it off into ‘The Treachery Game’. As with its previous series, he penned a tie-in novel to accompany the show. The series was broadcast in 1981 and again featured Malcolm Stoddard and Mary Tamm reprising their roles.
Big Finish released both audiobooks at the same time back in July, which makes sense for a sequel. However, there’s nothing to indicate that one story precedes the first. It was only by coincidence that I listened to them in the correct order. For Gerson aficionados, this won’t be a problem. But for someone coming at it fresh, having something to indicate the order might be helpful.
As with the previous book, Dan Starkey narrates the story and voices all the characters. Once again, Starkey’s talent for accents serves this release incredibly well and enhances the story immeasurably. As you might expect, a vast majority of the people in the story are French. Luckily, our narrator has a seemingly-endless selection of French accents to plumb and brings every character to life distinctly. When it comes to spy stories, almost every character is liable to have a hidden agenda or dark secret. Starkey imbues the characters with a subtle enough edge that every character twist seem fitting without being obvious.
Survival of the Fittest
Whereas ‘The Assassination Run’ felt repetitive with numerous car chases crammed in, ‘The Treachery Game’ is far more sedate. Mark specifically avoids driving, reasoning that the police will be watching the roads. This is a welcome change from the original as Mark has to demonstrate his skills in low-tech survival rather than vehicular pursuit. He’s unarmed, has no money or equipment and he’s being hunted by his own colleagues. The improvisational skill Mark demonstrates here adds more to a character who was a bit one-note in the last story. That said, there’s less of a political subtext in this story, which is a shame.
Mark and Jill
Given how proactive Jill was in the previous story, I was originally worried that Gerson was figuratively and literally putting her on a bus. But Jill is by no means underused, despite how readily she accepted separating from Mark. The effect that last year’s events had on her but she’s grown stronger as a result. At the same time, we get to see Mark completely cut loose for the first time. In the previous story, Mark’s driving focus was to rescue Jill and prevent her being harmed. By separating the two and having Mark believe she’s safe whatever he does, all bets are off for the ex-assassin. It’s an interesting new dynamic for the characters.
Between this story and the previous one, I personally think this is the stronger story. It focuses more on character and has more variety in its plot. Starkey is excellent in both and this story almost certainly works better taken in the context of the other. So, if gritty spy thrillers are your bag, these two releases are definitely worth a listen.
Story – 8/10
Narration – 10/10
When a mysterious girl murders a British biochemist in France, former British agent, Mark Fraser, on holiday nearby, is framed for the murder and forced to go on the run. His only hope is to discover the reason for the biochemist’s death.
Fraser’s search for answers leads him into a web of intrigue, treachery and murderous mayhem. Behind the killing is the shadow of a horrifying secret, so frightening in its implications that the Intelligence agents of three great powers are desperate to obtain it.
(Please note this is a significantly sized download-file – be aware of any data-charges your network may incur, and that you will need twice the filestore available on your computer or device to unzip the file)
Written By: Jack Gerson
Directed By: John Ainsworth
Read by Dan Starkey