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A Delicate Truth [Paperback]

John le Carré
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 April 2014

'With A Delicate Truth, le Carré has, in a sense, come home. And it's a splendid homecoming . . . Satisfying, subtle and compelling' The Times

A counter-terror operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted in Britain's most precious colony, Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, and a private defence contractor who is also his close friend. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister's Private Secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it.

Three years later, when the horrifying truth behind Operation Wildlife is uncovered, Toby will be forced to choose between his conscience and his duty to the Service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?

'A brilliant climax, with sinister deaths, casual torture, wrecked lives and shameful compromises' Observer

'This is writing of such quality that - as Robert Harris put it - it will be read in one hundred years' Daily Mail

'Perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the twentieth century in Britain' Ian McEwan

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (10 April 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0241965187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241965184
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931. His third novel, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, secured him a wide reputation which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE. His other novels include THE CONSTANT GARDENER, A MOST WANTED MAN and OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.

Product Description


I think he has easily burst out of being a genre writer and will be remembered as perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the 20th century in Britain. He will have charted our decline and recorded the nature of our bureaucracies like no one else has. But that's just been his route into some profound anxiety in the national narrative. Most writers I know think le Carré is no longer a spy writer. He should have won the Booker Prize a long time ago. It's time he won it and it's time he accepted it. He's in the first rank. (Ian McEwan Telegraph)

No other writer has charted - pitilessly for politicians but thrillingly for readers - the public and secret histories of his times, from the Second World War to the "War on Terror" (Guardian)

One of those writers who will be read a century from now (Robert Harris)

With A Delicate Truth, le Carré has in a sense come home. And it's a splendid homecoming . . . Satisfying, subtle and compelling (The Times)

The perfectly paced, exquisitely cynical style that is le Carré's hallmark (Sunday Times)

The master of the modern spy novel returns . . . this is writing of such quality that - as Robert Harris put it - it will be read in one hundred years (Daily Mail)

A brilliant climax, with sinister deaths, casual torture, wrecked lives and shameful compromises (Observer)

John le Carré has lost none of his ability in skewering the murkier foibles of the British Establishment. A tale of deception, greed, betrayal and ultimately, revenge . . . it is not until the last few pages that the full three dimensions of the plot are thrillingly revealed (Country Life)

A writer of towering gifts . . . le Carré is one of the great analysts of the contemporary scene, who has a talent to provoke as well as unsettle (Independent)

John le Carré takes us back to his favourite scenarios: Whitehall, the secret services, the gentleman's clubs, dodgy bankers, corrupt public schoolboys and gruesome American neo-cons . . . revelling once more in that imaginary world of secrets and lies that is le Carré's gift to us (Evening Standard)

Tense, twisty, and driven by a melancholy insight into human motivation . . . deeply compelling (The Week)

John le Carré is as recognisable a writer as Dickens or Austen, with an often-imitated but never rivalled cast of seedy spies, false lovers, public schoolboys struggling with guilt, and charming but immoral leaders of the brutal establishment . . . This is vintage le Carré and highly enjoyable (Financial Times)

Thrilling, suspenseful . . . Fans will not be disappointed (Sunday Express)

Utterly convincing characters, a tight plot . . . Wonderful (Sunday Mirror)

Thrilling (Express)

Choreographed with unsettling precision (Metro)

When I was under house arrest I was helped by the books of John le Carré ... they were a journey into the wider world ... These were the journeys that made me feel that I was not really cut off from the rest of humankind (Aung San Suu Kyi)

Plunges the reader into a modern-day thriller...Dad won't be able to put it down (Metro)

[It] has all the essential ingredients of his masterpieces: the dilemmas of duty, patriotism and decency (Simon Sebag Montefiore Metro 'Books of the Year')

John Le Carré at his masterful best . . . nobody does it better (Ben Macintyre The Times 'Books of the Year')

Widely hailed as a return to the good old Smiley days . . . le Carré writes with laconic elegance (Kate Saunders The Times 'Books of the Year')

About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For the last fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary 19 Sep 2013
JLC's last bestseller "Our Kind of Traitor" OKT) had a mixed reception in the UK, but was a hit in the US. It drew few comments on the EN section of Amazon.de and Amazon.fr. But tens of thousands or more Germans and French readers must have read the book in translation...
Like OKT, this passionate novel is an assault on Britain's political establishment during the New Labour era under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown. It suggests that some key persons within government push for strategic matters of national defence to be outsourced to private companies based in the US. The "evidence" is presented in the lengthy (46 pp.) first chapter of this book, describing a secret US/UK operation in Gibraltar allegedly mounted to capture a senior Al-Qaeda leader. This chapter also shows JLC's awesome writing skills, which he will keep up until the end..
What follows is the tale of its aftermath. It is about one, then two Foreign Office staff involved in the operation. The naïve one was made ambassador in the Caribbean, then retired. The other, more probing one was posted to Beirut at short notice. Years pass by before the two meet and compare notes. Then the drama begins...
And the powers of surveillance by foreign and domestic security services, disclosed recently by former insiders, soon become apparent in this grand novel... It rivals Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" published in 2007, one year before the ongoing crisis erupted, as the scariest book I have read in a decade.
Highly recommended thriller.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If One Tells The Truth 15 May 2013
The first time I read 'The Spy That Came In From The Cold', I remember the first page and then not much until I finished the book. This novel feels much the same. The first chapter confusing, trying to figure out who's who and what is what. Finally, realizing that as this story unfolds, it is brilliant. Paul, Jeb, Eliot, Giles, Toby, Crispin and Emily, all characters that come to life. Gibraltar, Cornwall, London, Beirut, the Caribbean, these are the places for the world of the Intelligence Service.

Le Carré's novels have changed, his characters have come to life with humor and emotion. It is the 'little people' that are the heroes of this story. No more spies, it is the everyday Joe up against the big machine of arms and politics. Paul,aka Kit Probyn, was drawn into a mysterious game as a low level government worker. The job was finished,and he settled down in the country with his wife and daughter to the good life. Now, he finds out this game was not without consequences, and he and Toby Bell, a diplomat are trying to find and report the truth. This is a masterful story that comes alive with suspense as new truths unfold and old truths are found misleading.

There is a lot of political correctness gone awry in this novel. The issue of England and the US working together in clandestine versions of one cover-up after another. So, these two individuals come together to find the truth and to spread light upon dark waters. I do hope we are able to follow Toby Bell in his career. Truth and justice, will it prevail? Le Carre is at the top of his game once again. The Cold War has come and gone. The new era is upon us.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 05-15-13
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicate truth 25 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The usual high standard from John le Carre with a contemporary twist. Has to be read in one sitting if poss.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Condemnation of Modern Diplomacy 11 May 2013
I am a huge fan of le Carre and this has probably tipped me over to giving his latest book 5 stars instead of four. As with A Most Wanted Man A Delicate Truth is set in the "War on Terror". Whereas that book's action was focused in Germany, A Delicate Truth is very much an English story. le Carre is explicit about key parts of this book being set in the dying days of the New Labour. Although he has always been a political writer and someone who has referenced current affairs I think this is the most explicit he has ever been in focusing on a particular political party as opposed to the government or bureaucracy in general.

As other reviewers have commented this is not a book in the style of the Smiley classics where one spymaster outwits another. It is more about ordinary people trying to do the right thing and being prevented from achieving it by multinationals, politicians and their business interests. In this case the people trying to do the right thing are a retired Foreign Office official and a rising star, both appalled by activities that they have been directly involved in or deliberately excluded from.

Where trade craft and other le Carre staples are mentioned it is in efforts by the lead characters to avoid the attentions of their own spy services while they try to find the truth despite knowing it could devastate their own careers and reputations.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious 24 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A terrific read, but worryingly all too plausible. Le Carre's writing pulls the reader headlong through an altogether nightmarish world, which is all too believeable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disastrous rendition 28 May 2014
By talmine
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story is set in comparatively recent times - the War on Terror - and deals with a disastrous decision by the SIS to collaborate with (a partly privatised) episode of 'extraordinary rendition' the illegal abduction of foreigners thought to be a threat to America. This is at the behest of a junior (but ambitious) F.O. Minister of the then government. This involves two career diplomats and a handful of ex SAS men (and a liaison officer with the private pirates). The two career diplomats are very different people: one is close to retirement and one is in his prime and runs the Minister's Office.

The former is sent to Gibraltar (where the abduction is to be staged) as a peaceful observer to report back to the Minister. He does so and witnesses a disaster, in which a harmless civilian and her daughter who are gunned down. After returning to London he is posted to some Caribbean Island to serve as High Commissioner for a couple of years before being retired for good with a gong.

The younger man (Toby), who suspects the Minister is to no good, secretly records the meeting where the Minister briefs the F.O observer and the SAS participants before they depart for Gibraltar. After the event Toby is sent (for no obvious reason) to serve in the British Embassy in Lebanon for two or three years.

The story is not concerned with details of the rendition operation, but with the two career diplomats who realise the enormity
of what has taken place and feel that public should be aware of what has been done in there name.

It is a very worthwhile story although to my mind it ended rather abruptly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Brought for my dad as a present.
Published 11 hours ago by Lorraine
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing premise and build of the story as you would ...
Intriguing premise and build of the story as you would expect from le Carre
Ultimately not as satisfying a final quarter
Published 18 hours ago by chris milligan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good.
Published 4 days ago by MICHAEL LOWSLEY-WILLIAMS
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me up half the night
as an 80 year old I can describe myself as an "old"Le Carte fan. As usual the characters are fascinating and the Establishment robustly rotten. Read more
Published 5 days ago by D J Lahiff
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
A good read. Holds your attention to the end. The "powers that be" don't come out very well from this. It's what goes on in our name behind closed doors.
Published 5 days ago by Mr M A Cowell
1.0 out of 5 stars Not great.
not his best work
Published 7 days ago by P & J G:
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging thriller - typical Le Carre work
Well written thriller with Le Carre's usual great characterisation and politically salient work. Critical of current corrupt state of politics and the corporate state which as a... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Mr. Dg Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Possibly his best yet!!
Published 7 days ago by Garth
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live le Carré
My bookcase has a who long, very long shelf of nothing but le Carré. He remains the one author I know will always deliver. His stories are beautifully crafted. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Darron Boston
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his best
I haven't always enjoyed John le Carre's books as much as I'd expected to. Sometimes they have been a bit heavy going. Read more
Published 17 days ago by the step
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