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“John Le Carré’s 21st novel situated in Hamburg concerns the arrival of Issa, a ragged, undernourished and tortured Chechen. He puts his fate into the hands of a Turkish family, who in turn ask advice from Annabel Richter, a lawyer from a legal collective assisting asylum seekers. It turns out Issa carries with him a document entitling him to millions from private bank “Brue Frères” in Hamburg. This once venerable institution is headed by Tommy Brue (60), childless, unhappily married and the last scion of a banking dynasty.
The interaction between Issa, Annabel and Tommy fuels much of what happens next, with Tommy assuming the now classical role of seniors in Le Carré’s oeuvre, trying to end a failing career with a resounding victory. However, the intelligence service of Germany, the UK and the US always had their eye on Issa and wonder what he will do with his millions... And then the intrigues between the services begin...“
Wrote something like this in a May 2010 review for a Dutch media. Also praised JLC for being an inclusive writer, standing up for the weak like refugees or victims of the pharmaceutical or arms industry. And that here the intelligence services were apparently not operating very smartly.
Events since 2010 have caused a sea change in public opinion and European and US politics re political/humanitarian asylum, immigration and terrorism. The 2015 influx of some 800.000 non-vetted refugees into Germany was said by its top politicians to have prevented a fresh Balkan war, and of course, there were real terrorists among them. In June 2016, the UK panicked and voted itself out of the EU, partly or largely over immigration concerns. Today the EU is busy trying to contain immigration via diplomacy in transit nations like Turkey, Tunisia and Libya and devising concentric defensive-cum-preventive programs in e.g. Gambia, Niger and Sudan. Only months ago, Polish immigration stopped hundreds of suspected Chechen Islamists arriving by bus and train from entering the EU.
Le Carre could not possibly have foreseen all this. Am curious how fresh readers will appreciate this novel. Am also sure there are plenty of people like Annabel left in Germany and elsewhere to defend legitimate asylum seekers. Beautifully composed and written, as always.
I was quite impressed with this War on Terror spy thriller. It is well written, has an intriguing and well constructed plot and it possesses an air of authenticity. Set in Hamburg,the book is about a Chechen jihadist who enters Germany illegally in order to claim an inheritance deposited with a bank there. He is assisted by an idealistic liberal lawyer who gets in touch with the bank on his behalf. However their activities soon attract the attention of the German,British and American intelligence agencies and the jihadist,lawyer and banker involved soon find themselves being handled and manipulated by them who treat them as pawns in a much bigger game ,namely stopping the financing of global Islamic terrorism. The author seems to know how spy agencies operate and the sort of people who get involved with them and he writes about them very well. Fascinating novel.
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.
"A Most Wanted Man" is one of the newest Le Carré's, portraying the "new" post cold war spy novels. it is by far better than its consequent "Our Kind of Traitor" which is another fling the author had with a completely "communist-free" spy novel.
The Novel is well written as always, fluent and gripping. Takes place in Hamburg, symbolically (and later proven crucial to the turn of events) the city where the 9/11 perpetrators have found refuge right under the nose of the German intelligence services. It is in this city that an illegal Chechen Muslim immigrant, called Issa Karpov finds refuge with a Turkish family. We later find out that Issa is indeed wanted both in Sweden and in Russia/his homeland. He is helped by human rights lawyer Annabel Richter (an infidel to whom he is slightly attracted and subsequently tries to fight the ambiguity of his identity) and by a banker called Tommy Bruce, whose bank "inherited" an illegal account that involves Issa (i won't give up any more details - don't worry!) Meanwhile, this is all taking place under the scrutiny of Gunther Bachmann a washed up German intelligence officer, determined to make amends to the German miss of 9/11 (and his own complicated past) by using Issa as a source to get to a high ranking terrorist activist. This is done under and despite the interference of the British intelligence, The Americans and Gunther's superiors.
So far the plot. I have now heard that there's a movie coming out (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gunther) and I must confess this story might do better on the big screen than as a novel. True to my Le Carré I still call it a great read, but it seemed that (though the message is very well understood) it lacks some sort of "Le Carré-ish panache" ... It's hard for me to put the finger on it, but it seemed like the message the great Spy-master is trying to convey has already been comprehended in "Absolute Friends" (if you read it you know what I'm talking about, ho mighty America!). A Most Wanted Man is promising at the start but loses it's momentum, and leaves you with a somewhat sense of a miss ... meaning you sit there thinking "this could have been spectacular ! "
Still a great read as always (i said it three times now), well written and intriguing - though it is one of few Le Carré that did not get 5 stars by me.
In common with other readers, I was losing faith in the author of the incomparable Smiley novels. The Constant Gardener, Mission Song, Single and Single suggested a forlorn search for unexplored territory. Now, with one bound, our hero has liberated himself - or, rather, rediscovered himself in the dark, duplicitous recesses of the international intelligence community. Wonderfully, although all the old la Carré characteristics remain, they belong in a very modern world of terrorism with a banking sub plot.
The core of the novel is to be found in a speech delivered by a character who has no other role in the book but whose presence is neither forced nor artificial. le Carré's control of an intricate narrative is admirably sure-footed. The speech in question deliberates on good and evil and how both may be embodied in one person, perhaps even without that person understanding how to reconcile them. Can ninety-five per cent good justify five per cent bad? This is no abstract sermon; set in the context of Islamic fundamentalism it is a thoughtful contribution to a powerful 21st Century debate.
le Carré's skill is to make it equally relevant to the growing tension of his story. The characters are drawn with enough depth that their influence on unfolding events - or their inability to influence them - makes satisfying sense. Perhaps this is not, as Stella Rimmington has suggested, an accurate portrayal of the intelligence services at work today. No matter. While we turn the pages, drawn into the web, le Carré convinces us that it is.
The Master story teller is back. A thousand welcomes.
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 have just finished reading "A Most Wanted Man". It took me a couple of days of after-work reading but I really wish that I had taken it in one long gulp. The pleasure would have been even greater: it is a superbly written story that shrieks out a challenge to injustice and double-dealing and the swaggering, bullying use of power.
In terms of execution, there are sentences and phrases that pull you up short while you register the absolute exactitude of the description of the emotion or experience that Le Carre has put on paper. In terms of plotting it couldn't be better - taught, not a step misplaced, just enough to let the reader see the path without revealing the destination. In terms of finale, although you know early on and in the way of the world, it's not going to turn out well for someone, the ending is so unexpected (but so right) that it's one of the few books that I have ever read that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I've spent a lot of this year reading or re-reading John Le Carre. His books just get better and better, and A Most Wanted Man is brilliant, right on the money, timely, apt, absorbing, eminently readable and thoroughly gripping, right from the first page. Le Carre seems to respect his readership, using fabulous, flowing language, convoluted plot lines and understated 'reveals'. He allows us to work it out for ourselves. Great book by a great writer.