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Our Kind of Traitor [Hardcover]

John le Carré
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Sep 2010

Britain is in the depths of recession. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis.

What else he wants propels the young lovers on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain's Intelligence Establishment.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (16 Sep 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0670919012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919017
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,826 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

Amazon Review

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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's "non-fiction" world 10 Oct 2011
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I read "Our Kind of Traitor" in a week that the U.S. media revealed that the private prison industry had written and ensured passage of the immigration Arizona law and BP and Halliburton were publicly dukeing it out over responsibility for the catastrophic failure of their joint drilling venture in the Gulf of Mexico. There was other reporting on how Wall Street and financial institutions had manipulated the mortgage markets that resulted in the 2008 recession and how one of the principals in that greed-fest had been let off (judicially) with a slap on the wrist fine. In Russia, more investigative journalists were killed or arrested and the Russian Federation government announced greater involvement in the country's private business sector and put into place a new, Putin-selected Mayor of Moscow. And so it goes most weeks of the year.

John Le Carre has increasingly written in the stark but real terms that accurately reflect what is actually happening in the globalized and corporate controlled world that we live in. He gets a lot of flack for doing so, but you could certainly make an argument that our "now" world (which he faithfully chronicles in his "fiction") is a scarier and more dangerous place for the citizens of developed and developing countries alike than the world that existed before the disintegration of the Communist Bloc in 1989.

"Our Kind of Traitor" is a terrific book with the classic Le Carre mix of rich character development and gradually building plot. By the last chapter, the reader has been inveigled into investing a great deal in the outcome of the story, particularly in the future of the collected characters. But this being a Le Carre cautionary tale, tied very much to political and social reality, the ending is neither simple nor wholly rewarding.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not vintage - but still on good form 21 Oct 2010
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
With Le Carré, you don't get mad action. You get people. This is no exception. It's certainly not his greatest work, but it's still a lot better than a lot of spy novels that are out there. Perhaps, it is ultimately a bit predictable, but as ever, you are never quite sure. And when the end comes, it comes suddenly and that can lead to some suggestions of "running out of steam", but how else could it have ended?

When academic Perry and his girlfriend Gail find themselves on a tennis break in Antigua, they have no idea that their lives are going to be turned upside down when they meet a rich and somewhat scarey Russian who wants to play Perry at tennis. Soon, Perry and Gail are unwittingly involved in a bid for asylum as the Russian, Dima, has information that will be of interest to the powers that be, certainly involving the banking sector. This is Le Carré right up to date, full of talk of recession and banking meltdown.

As with any good spy book, we spend time in Paris as well as Antigua, London and Switzerland, with a short jaunt to Russia thrown in for good measure. Le Carré writes beautifully (his dialogue in particular is always authentic) and creates completely believable characters all with their own little character weaknesses. And if Le Carré's best works have been in the Cold War era, you have to admire the resilience of the man to adapt his novels to more modern times.

It's certainly well worth a read, providing you are not expecting vintage Le Carré.
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I want a proper ending 25 Sep 2010
For a time it felt like we were back in the happy days of Tinker Tailor and I was absorbed into this novel and very happy that the author seemed about to deliver a similar experience to his Smiley novels.

Then, the larger than life Dima began to be irritating and something began to wane. Even Hector - a very different kind of Smiley - began to let me down too.

I accept that the author has moved on and the villains of today are not the old Cold War warriors so I may be making an unfair comparison with the past. I think that I do appreciate the author has become cynical about institutions - government, the Service,the Swiss, the City - that we once relied upon, naively perhaps.

Still, I was pretty content right up to the end - or the lack of one, to be precise. Maybe the world has reached the point where no-one can win so that there cannot be an ending. Fine, but it seems that such stories are going to leave me feeling that I've rather wasted my time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best of le Carré. 23 Nov 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John le Carré's spy novels from the cold war period are rightly regarded as masterpieces of the genre, but with the ending of that phase of history, he has turned to other areas of deception, involving big business, the financial industry, corrupt governments etc. This is one such novel. It starts when a rather naïve academic, Perry, and his lawyer girlfriend, Gail, are holidaying in Antigua when they are befriended by a rich, scary Russian called Dima and his somewhat weird family. Dima is the number one money launderer for Russian mafia-style gangsters, but he has fallen out with them and is afraid that they are about to kill him, just as they recently murdered his close friend. Dima asks Perry to transmit a message to the British security service to the effect that he will `tell all' about the illegal financial activities of the great and the good, including a senior British MP, in exchange of a safe home in England for himself and his family, together with his considerable fortune. This is a highly improbable way to start a novel. What are the chances that a random tourist would know how to contact the security service, and what would Dima have done had Perry declined. Just try another random tourist?

Perry does in fact contact the intelligence service via a fellow academic, and the next part of the book is a long very forensically detailed interrogation of Perry and Gail about the events on Antigua. The secret service personnel who conduct the interviews are unfortunately stereotypes from an earlier age, and I refuse to believe that MI6 is staffed by senior people who still eat `school dinners' in stuffy clubs in Pall Mall and use language from forty years ago.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable ... so far!
I'm only as far as the third chapter and considering dumping it ... unreadable so far. Hope it gets better.
Published 1 month ago by Stephen Rynne
4.0 out of 5 stars It was always about the money
The reader is drawn in to the story as a spectator at a Centre court tennis match. Not allowed to leave until the game is played out.
Published 2 months ago by G. V. Wilkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre on top form
The master is back. Le Carre just takes the genre and updates it plausibly and entertainingly. His evocation of British intelligence at its workaday level is unparalleled. Read more
Published 2 months ago by tpryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another enjoyable read from this author
Yet another enjoyable read from this author. Having read all of his books over a number of years, its been almost like a sub plot but outside of the books, how the story lines have... Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. Crook
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre
What can you say. If you like Le Carre you'll like this, twists and turns et al. Another good one
Published 2 months ago by Mr. Andrew P. Stange
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and clever
Nore for younger women with stong US bias.
Don't know lots of US celebs quoted.
Good read and good fun
Published 3 months ago by Susan
3.0 out of 5 stars Book
Another present, I've had good reviews but that,s all I can say as it's really not my type of book
Published 3 months ago by D. Kilby
5.0 out of 5 stars On form again
I thought some of le Carré's recent books were a little disappointing, but not this one. I am full of admiration for the way he keeps his writing topical.
Published 3 months ago by daveofthenewcity
3.0 out of 5 stars I think I missed the point
I always enjoy this author's work and this book is no exception. The prose, the scene setting, the gentle teasing into the main thrust of the story are excellently described. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Michael Watson
3.0 out of 5 stars Good enough
John Le Carre's a clever writer; clipped descriptions, novel metaphors and an assumption about both the attention and intelligence of the reader that can't help but flatter us. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Andrew D Wright
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