Our Kind of Traitor
is a reminder – if such a thing were needed – that John le Carré is comfortably still at the top of the tree in arena of the intelligent thriller; he is still writing books for readers who want some texture to their genre reading. But – to rehearse the old debate -- is le Carré a genre writer – or simply a first-rate novelist? Very few would now argue with the latter assessment. The Spy who Came in from the Cold
, his first real-calling card book, took the world of espionage thrillers by storm back in 1963, and that brilliantly written examination of the betrayal and duplicities of the Cold War both changed the face of the spy novel and marked le Carré out as the essential writer in the field – a badge he’s sported ever since. Subsequently, the much-acclaimed series of novels featuring the subtle spymaster George Smiley (inaugurated with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
in 1974) made much else in the field seem superficial and unambitious. While there was a move away from the pared-to-the-bone precision of the earlier books, the sprawling canvas of the Smiley sequence allowed the author to add new levels to the popular novel, making them as rich as more overtly ‘literary’ fare.
After recent work taking on American foreign policy (a bête noir of the author) and the big pharmaceutical companies, le Carré has returned to the concision of his early work, and in Our Kind of Traitor has delivered one of his most sheerly satisfying novels in years.
Britain is suffering under the recession, and a young couple – a leftish academic and his girlfriend (who is in the legal profession) – escape a depressed UK for a leisurely break on the Caribbean island of Antigua. But a meeting with a Russian millionaire by the name of Dima plunges the couple down the rabbit hole in a dizzying, picaresque odyssey in which the worlds of the City of London and the shadowy corridors of espionage collide.
In many ways, this is quite unlike any other John le Carré novel, even as it utilises familiar tropes. And the surprises here (which it would be criminal to reveal) demonstrate that one of our greatest writers – to his considerable credit – is refusing to stand still. --Barry Forshaw
If you want to know about the state of Britain today, forget the Booker shortlist. Just read John le Carré's latest thriller (Evening Standard
Return of the master . . . Having plumbed the devious depths of the Cold War, le Carré has done it again for our nasty new age (The Times
Few recent plays have had dialogue as good, and few recent literary novels can boast a set of characters so vividly imagined. Our Kind of Traitor
is a teasing, beguiling, masterly performance (Sunday Times
A compelling tale of deceit, dialogue and the author's own despair John le Carré's greatest gift may be his ear, which allows him to pick up a tremor of fear in the softest voice or a false note in any exchange of words and play with them to his heart's content. He can therefore create, in dialogue, a trembling soundscape that has a pitch-perfect quality (James Naughtie Sunday Telegraph