So, my first John le Carré thriller. I may have seen a film or TV adaptation of his work but this was my first time reading his book.
Nat, a veteran of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, thinks his years as an agent runner are over. But MI6 have other plans. To tackle the growing threat from Moscow Centre, Nat is put in charge of The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie. His weekly badminton session with the young, introspective, Brexit-and-Trump-hating Ed, offers respite from the new job. But it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Nat down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all.
I am well aware of the le Carré name and the mania around it. As I began reading, I was curious to see where his unusual narrative style, which you notice immediately, would lead me. His interactions with Ed - vociferous in expressing his hate for Brexit and Trump - make for some entertaining display of characters.
Now, I can compare this only with other books I’ve loved in this genre and I found that with all the meandering between Nat’s covert games with the Russians and those he plays on the badminton court, the book was less spy-thriller and more political commentary on the state of affairs in the UK and US. The events do have a chronology and perhaps a twist but somewhere along the way they lose track. In the end, everything is just a hap-hazard unravelling of knots which, eventually, are abruptly cut off.
I’m sure those following his work love it. Perhaps it wasn’t the right one to start with.