With the supposed certainties of the Cold War a distant memory for many years, the author in his recent novels, as in this latest, must contend with a more ambiguous international world: where is the line drawn between legitimate business and criminal enterprise; at what point do high-level politicians become compromised in dealing with real-world issues; have national security policies and agendas changed in the post Cold War era, in particular, in regard to Russia; has the ground thereby shifted under clandestine services. This is the setting in which the old-line British spies, financial facilitators/money launderers, Parliamentary members, unsuspecting civilians, Russian businessmen/crime bosses, etc, portrayed in this book operate.
Oxford professor, Perry Makepeace, and his long-time girlfriend, up-and-coming barrister, Gail Perkins, are attempting to regroup by taking a vacation in Antigua in the Caribbean, when he is practically forced into a tennis match by a man Dima who would be perfectly cast as a Russian mafioso, that is, with heavy accent, shaved head, powerful, disdainful, garish, etc, which as it turns out, he is. In the shifting power relations in the Russian crime world, Dima has become a liability. As their money launderer par excellence he is a man who knows too much, especially their dealings with respectable British aristocrats, members of Parliament, and the like. Dima identifies Perry as a man of “fair play,” and in a rather orchestrated, overly dramatic scenario convinces Perry to take recordings to British intelligence that request a safe place in England for his family in exchange for names, foreign bank account numbers, etc. Presumably his past prevents him from simply applying for residency on his own initiative.
The book largely consists of the somewhat drawn out, increasing involvement of Perry and Gail in this entire affair from initial debriefings with a large amount of skepticism on the part of their questioners before moving on to higher-ups to agreeing to travel to Paris to play a role in the operation of springing Dima. Though at times tedious, the author’s captures so well the language of the spy world: not only crisp but cunningly indirect where questions and suggestions are crafted for the unsuspecting to stumble on. It is interesting to see the innocents, Perry and Gail, forge naively ahead, cast aside doubts, and buy into the noble cause perspective, all the while never suspecting untold possible complications, probably not an untypical response.
For those who enjoy the world of spying as depicted by the author: his weary, almost cynical characters who nonetheless have made their realistic compromises, this book will be welcomed; others may find it only tiresome. It can be said that the plot line is pretty thin and questionable at some points and matters proceed in rather detailed slowness. Again, it is the flavor of the spy world and its impositions that is the book’s greatest appeal. The outcome, while not necessarily inevitable, does reflect the aforementioned ambiguities and the forces of realpolitik.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Those readers who have found post-cold war le Carré too cerebral will have much to cheer about with this Russian mafia spy thriller. While on holiday in Antigua, former Oxford tutor Perry Makepiece and his lawyer girlfriend, Gail Perkins, meet Dmitri 'Dima' Vladimirovich Krasnov, an avuncular Russian businessman who challenges Perry to a tennis match. Even though Perry wins, Dima takes a shine to the couple, and soon they're visiting with his extended family. At Dima's request, Perry conveys a message to MI6 in England that Dima wishes to defect, and on arriving home, Perry and Gail receive a summons from MI6 to a debriefing. Not only is Dima a Russian oligarch, he's also one of the world's biggest money launderers. Le Carré ratchets up the tension step-by-step until the sad, inevitable end. His most accessible work in years, this novel shows once again why his name is the one to which all others in the field are compared. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review A Day"
by Todd Gitlin, The New Republic,
"The week I opened up John le Carre's latest bitter excavation of the spiritual affinities of criminal Russians and their Western counterparts, ten Russian spies under deep cover for somewhat indeterminate purposes were rounded up in America. Meanwhile, in Siberia, the mayor of a fishing village on Lake Baikal was on trial at the behest of the FSB, the country's chief domestic security agency, charged with abuse of power for having filed suit (on public safety grounds) against a resort under construction. (The resort in question happened to be owned by the FSB.) I could practically hear le Carre chuckle offstage. The Cold War may have ended in ambiguous triumph, but the new world is not running short of sinister material for the master transnational moralist of our time. In le Carre's world, apparent coincidence is only a conspiracy yet unmasked. He is, like the British agents who pull strings throughout his latest adventure in unintended consequences, 'professionally disposed against the workings of chance.'" (Read the entire New Republic review)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"While other novelists are doing everything they can to inflate their tales of cloak and dagger, trust le Carré to make his story of international money laundering, political infighting and unwitting treachery into a chamber symphony of exquisite delicacy."
"It is a complex but fascinating subject, and le Carré dissects it brilliantly....In the world as le Carré finds it, grace under pressure is about as good as it gets."
by New York Times,
"Le Carré's execution is perfect. There are no narrative missteps. His gift at character shorthand is as strong as ever... It is always a pleasure to be in the hands of an entirely competent writer."
by Washington Post,
"A tale that rings with authenticity at every stage.... If a better thriller than Our Kind of Traitor has been published this year, I'd like to see it."
by Library Journal,
"As fresh as this morning's dish on Twitter and as nerve-racking as the evening news, this novel is sure to thrill faithful fans and attract newcomers.... A sure bet."
The unrivaled master of spy fiction returns with a taut and suspenseful novel of dirty money and dirtier politics. Perry and Gail are idealistic and very much in love when they splurge on a tennis vacation at a posh beach resort in Antigua. But the charm begins to pall when a big-time Russian money launderer enlists their help to defect.
A counter-terrorist operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far-right. So delicate is the operation that even the Ministers personal private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it.
Three years later, a disgraced Special Forces Soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be—or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher (Kit”) Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house, and closely observed by Kits daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his Service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?
"Haven't you realized that only appearances matter?"
The British Embassy in Bonn is up in arms. Her Majesty's financially troubled government is seeking admission to Europe's Common Market just as anti-British factions are rising to power in Germany. Rioters are demanding reunification, and the last thing the Crown can afford is a scandal. Then Leo Harting—an embassy nobody—goes missing with a case full of confidential files. London sends Alan Turner to control the damage, but he soon realizes that neither side really wants Leo found—alive.
Set against the threat of a German-Soviet alliance, John le Carré's A Small Townin Germany is a superb chronicle of Cold War paranoia and political compromise.
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