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When le Carre wrote about The Cold War he was, with the exception of the truly appalling 'The Honourable Schoolboy', the best espionage genre writer ever and occasionally reached the heights of a great modern novelist like John Fowles, his contemporary. This, unfortinately is a mildly entertaining, if predictable story about 'The War on Terror'. It contains the usual le Carre flaws: poorly sketched female charcters, Annabelle is slightly better than usual but the wives are, of course, sluts (le Carre obviously had a series of bad marriages); intelligence officers who are venal, incompetent or buffoons (no doubt revenge for the author's short career in British Intelligence) and the most ludicrous characters since Jerry Westerby, Tommy Brue, a merchant-banker with a conscience!) and Issa, a cardboard cut-out 'good' Muslim. It articulates the standard liberal view of Islam as a sort of teetotal Christianity rather than the evil philosophy a cursory reading of the Koran reveals it to be. This sort of work is much better executed by Frederick Forsyth who research is also much better. Stick to le Carre's Cold War stories.
It's not 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold', nor is it any of the Smiley series, nor is as good IMO as his latest (Our Kind of Traitor). I'm surprised at how well reviewed this book has been. Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post was one of few reviews that did not seem to be saying, implicitly, "this is a good and subtle take on the war-on-terror because it criticises it like all good people should". He points out, that the book could have centered more on it's most interesting character (the German spy Bachmann), and I would add that Le Carre could have made a decent novel great by using the Bachman character to explore a surprisingly lose thread in the story - the story of the wanted man (Issa).
In the Daily Mail Stella Rimmington reviewed this novel, she was disappointed at his relatively cheap cynicism, and I'm writing this because I was too. At his cold war best, Le Carre captured the equivalence and ambiguity of spy v spy - who's good, who's bad, on the ground it's hard to tell - though his sympathies and heroes ultimately were with the West. But here, in his conclusion, he loses the tensions that really do exist in the 'war on terror'. Fine to have some blustering Americans and 'right-wing' German intelligence factions, but the point in a world that is not black and white, and the point that Le Carre could have made so well, is that they will be right half the time, not that they are always wrong because well paid and attractive female human rights lawyers say they must be. I was terribly disappointed by how this book unfolded, it lacks shades.
I was looking forward to reading this but didn't enjoy it I'm afraid. The plot was very predictable, the characterisation poor (one middle aged character's fantasies related to a young woman lawyer were just embarrassing and I didn't care much what happened to any of them. Plodded on to the end but was glad when it was over. No more like this please, Mr Cornwell.
Rather confusing in parts you have to concentrate to follow as in most of le Carre books. However this one lacked the intrigue and the story wondered. Found this did not hold my attention as his others. too
John le Carre used to be an outstanding novelist. Even after the end of the Cold War, he adapted well (especially with Constant Gardener and Little Drummer Girl). This latest novel has the same basic (and predictable) plot lines as most of his recent novels..... Rather disappointing
It is bang up to date, which is cool. Bit long-winded and therefore a bit dull at times. Not ripping down doors thrilling, but need to turn the page as I need to know what's going to happen thrilling. In other words its a good spy thriller.
We find ourselves in Hamburg where British-born banker Tom Brue is reviewing his shrinking business. He becomes involved with the fortunes of a young Russian and his patrimony, a money-laundering account left in Tom's bank by the boy's father. At this point Le Carre starts bringing in secret agents working for Germany, MI5 and the CIA - he can't seem to help himself, and the story gallops towards a rather grim conclusion.
While the subject of this fiction is the USA practice of "rendition" it is dealt with in a characteristically flat Le Carre format and style. The denouement may have a higher emotional content which the rest of the novel eschews, it is not really a narrative surprise,nor given the wider reality of US govt. actions a shock or unbelievable. Unfortunately. Overall a little more prosaic than the subject warrants.