Jonathan Pine, sometime hotelier, soldier, killer, lover and agent, is swept up in a complex international intrigue. Weapons for sale is the pivot around which money, power and even romance impinge on Jonathan's life. The many roles, varied and useful as they are, leave him with no particular purpose in life. Until he encounters "the worst man in the world". The prompt is Sophie, who might have been a lover, but who belongs to Freddie Hamid. Freddie is aligned with Richard Onslow Roper, of Nassau, the Bahamas. The name and location are almost a slap in the face, since the Caribbean island-nations are host to shady firms. Little or no taxes and even less government supervision make it possible for the unscrupulous to engage in many forms of chicanery. Drugs and weapons loom large in that realm.
Left at loose ends by the fall of the Soviet Union, British Intelligence services need a fresh cause. If nothing else, all those bureaucratic structures and their personnel need to turn their expertise to new tasks. The problem is that the Cold War enabled influential people to develop links through the various spy networks. How many wealthy aristocrats are now involved in picking up the pieces to further enrich themselves? And which ones are doing so? Pine, picked up by one of the new spin-off intelligence organisations is set to learn answers to these questions. A faked murder sends him to unreachable places with a new identity. It puts him in a position to penetrate the Roper organisation. Throughout this tale, Pine is driven by the ghost of Sophie, who was found beaten to death in Egypt. Even in the backwoods of Quebec, hiding from authorities and maneuvering to complete his mission, he is beset by the image of her in his mind.
LeCarre's style is well applied in this tale of international wheeling and dealing. He exhibits a well-versed familiarity with the places described. It's his characters, however, that give this story its richness. From the intelligence bureaucrats through the "heavies" Roper employs as his protectors and fronts, to Pine and the women his life touches, there are no false images conveyed. The author portrays them effectively and consistently with no distracting or invalid diversions. Which is not to imply any of them are shallow or above credibility. Although the conclusion is unexpected, especially given the circumstances, the "spy novel" author has brought a new facet to intelligence writing. It's a captivating book and well worth either the established LeCarre fan or someone taking him up for the first time to have in their collection. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]