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Two or three summers ago a top British politician called Peter Mandelson (PM) was spotted on a luxury yacht owned by a Russian aluminium tycoon called Oleg Deripaska and PM was not the only British notable on board.
JLC's 22nd novel is a brilliantly-plotted, -researched and -written novel about love, honour and betrayal.
OKT is primarily an assault on Britain's ruling strata. And only secondly about the Kremlin's campaign to control Russian organized crime much as they subdued the oligarchs a decade earlier: "Share with us, or else!" The oligarchs complied, fled abroad or were jailed. Dealing with Russia's crime syndicates is harder. They are age-old brotherhoods of "honourable criminals" ("vory") living by strict codes whereby talking to, let alone dealing with the State is a sin punishable by death. But in this novel this Russian version of "omertá" is breached somewhere, somehow: Russia's seven richest and best-organized crime syndicates make a deal with the Kremlin. But there is one major obstacle. His name is Dima, which is short for Dimitri, an honourable criminal since the age of 14, who survived 15 years in ice-cold Kolyma, and has since worked his way up to become the world's best money launderer on behalf of himself and the Seven Brotherhoods. Now he is doomed because he knows too much and is not willing to sell out, deal with the State. He is a blunt, bearlike, forceful, emotional, desperate Russian with only days or weeks to live once he has signed over his private business empire to the Seven Brotherhoods and disclosed where he he hid their tens of billions of loot, when the book starts. From his refuge on the island of Antigua Dima makes a last-ditch effort to save at least his family by challenging young Oxford lecturer Peregrine ("Perry") Makepiece to a game of tennis. Perry and his lawyer girlfriend Gail fall prey to the charms of Dima and his mournful extended family. Perry pens down what Dima tells him about his life and works, because he wants a deal with the British government to save his family in exchange for a full account of his awesome whitewashing career, hoping Perry is a British spy or knows one. Perry's 28-page account, when he and Gail return home, does reach British intelligence. But... I hope this rich book is not JLC's parting shot at writing, because OKT is in my humble opinion his best. The context and descriptions are like watching a film, the characters and dialogues are great and the moral implications of this tale go beyond anything JLC has written before.
OKT is a square assault on corruption and rent-seeking behaviour by key members of Britain's establishment in government, parliament, the press, and esp. the sacred square mile of the City, where blood money of many types and provenances is banked, invested, transferred at lightning speed to fresher pastures and back again, for no purpose or wider benefit to wider humanity. The Square Mile and its many paid advocates welcome the establishment of the banking arm of the Arena Conglomerate of the Seven Brotherhoods warmly, with its promise of bringing hundreds of billions to London and of plentiful investments in moribund industries in a near-bankrupt country. Very rich and deep book. True masterpiece.
The difident, witty characters, sketched so well in his novels are every bit as important as his plots. And, he has adopted to the modern environments to take real world events and craft a really good modern spy story. You can't help but believe the eccentricities, and character traits of the heroes and villains of this book. I loved every minute. Highly recommended!
This is an espionage story for today centered on illegal drug dealing and money laundering by russian mafia with the collusion of people in powerful positions within the UK and abroad. It is not a James Bond type novel and there are no car chases but is an in depth look at the politics and the difficulties encountered by those trying to fight the corruption. I felt for the characters involved and found them eminently believable.
Le Carre is really the master of his craft, and this is a fabulously written book. Interesting idea based very much in reality, and he manages to bring the settings very alive, portray the complex characters and their changing inter-relations, with no slackening in the pace at all. The one issue I have is that his endings are incredibly bleak. While there's plenty wrong with the world his outlook does seem to be cynical in the extreme. I choose to be an optimist so balk at the scale of his negativity. But it's an excellent read.
As usual one reader's review contradicts another's. What one loves; another hates. What some other finds disappointing, another finds exciting. So, for what it's worth, here is my take. I was intrigued to find, after previously reading several Le Carre novels, that this was a fresh experience. A believable young couple, Gail and Perry, run into this Dima character while on a last-minute sun-seeking vacation. He engages their interest, persuades them into playing a game of tennis. What follows becomes a lengthy disclosure of recent Russian criminality and English 'fair play' complicity. My initial interest began to sag as far too many characters crept in. I became so bored about 2/3rds the way through I almost gave up. However, reading on, I was soon, not only intrigued again but down-right excited. Le Carre's portrayal of Dima, and his love for his strange array of adopted children, plus this monster of a mentally disturbed, criminal, but battily religious wife! moved me as no other work of 'fiction' has done for decades. The last few pages where Dima polishes his shoes and dons his best suit to face (possibly) his last days on earth - almost had me in tears. The last page item from the Guardian was chilling indeed.
I've never read one of le Carrés books before, and I was very nearly disappointed, as this book has a tennis theme in the beginning - I hate tennis! What though separates this book from others I've read from other authors is the quality of the writing. I'm into it, and its good a read.
Again the story teller keeps the suspense going to the end. The Master craftsman of spy stories keeps the reader unaware of the abrupt end of the tale which arrives like a bolt from the blue. I was sad that it ended for the most fascinating character I have read of for ages. I couldn't fathom him out but he gave the story it's unique and special theme.