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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's "non-fiction" world
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...
Published on 10 Oct 2011 by Blue in Washington

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78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I want a proper ending
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...
Published on 25 Sep 2010 by S. Morris


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18 of 19 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 "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Paperback)
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. This is not a book for those who need the white hats to come out on top. In this author's world, there aren't many white hats out there, and they are always greatly outnumbered by gray and black-hatted adversaries. "Our Kind..." was written very much with the realities of 2010 in mind, and as such, it is neither positive in tone nor optimistic looking toward the future. Like most Le Carre books, I found it an engaging, highly insightful and articulate wake up call for all of us. Let's hope that this author's voice continues to be heard for a long time to come. Highly recommended.
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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 (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Hardcover)
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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78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I want a proper ending, 25 Sep 2010
By 
S. Morris (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Hardcover)
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
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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. An elaborate plan is concocted to snatch Dima away from his `protectors' at the time of an important financial meeting in Switzerland, then to take him to a safe house where he would be joined by his family prior to flying to England. The deal is made by Hector, the senior secret service officer in charge, but difficulties occur after the snatch, when he encounters resistance from powerful people in England who would stand to lose greatly were the extraction to be successful. The ending, which is largely predictable, has been criticized for being very abrupt, which it certainly is. One reviewer said they felt that the author had grown bored with the whole thing, and I cannot disagree. One is left with the unanswered question about who are the real villains of the piece, the Russian gangsters, or the political and financial power brokers in the UK.

This is definitely not vintage le Carré and judged by his high standards it is rather disappointing, but is still an interesting read, with some good dialogue and characters, whose interactions are convincingly described.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 16 April 2013
By 
S. Leach (London) - See all my reviews
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Big Le Carre fan, but really felt let down by this one. It simply didn't feel like one of his novels, but rather something by the sort of author whose work you tend to find on second hand book stalls (which is where my copy is heading). I didn't find the story plausible and things just seemed to happen for no apparent reason e.g. the whole philandering ski instructor bit. It just felt like something that had been rushed out and had needed a lot of padding to fill the gaps.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mind-Numbingly Boring Build-Up to Feeble Ending, 10 Oct 2011
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Paperback)
I've read quite a few of Le Carré's books over the years - including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Smiley's People, The Russia House, The Little Drummer Girl and The Tailor of Panama - and have never understood why he has such a high reputation.

This book consists of a 305-page build-up to what I assume is meant to be a dramatic ending although it just fizzles out like a damp squib.

Like The Russia House, it has never-ending interviews and debriefing sessions during which the characters take pages to say nothing.

Le Carré's plots creak and groan like an old oak staircase, the narrative proceeds at snail pace and the reader is subjected to upper and middle class English mores and public school slang.

At times, I felt I had stumbled into a parody of P.G. Wodehouse as the manly English "hero" agrees to act as a mediator between a Russian money launderer he meets in Antigua while on holiday and the British secret service.

The Russian is pure cliché - bald, built like a bear, tattooed, mawkishly friendly one minute, menacing the next, hitting the vodka bottle every page or so and surrounded by villainous body guards whom he does not trust -while the Englishman plays tennis with him and teaches his children to play cricket on a beach.

One of the scenes in this book takes place in a top spy's rundown club in Pall Mall overlooking Regent's Park where the characters drink "vile claret" and eat "shepherd's pie and school cabbage" followed by bread-and-butter pudding while dabbing their mouths with a "moth-eaten damask napkin" as an ageing servant in a "red hunting jacket" shuffles by pushing a "clanking silver trolley".

They say things like: "Bought 'em a sweet little house in Bloomsbury.... Got a decent basement too. Pongs a bit. Not offensively. Used to be someone's wine cellar."

The ending which is set in Switzerland is confusing and unimpressive. I believe Le Carré studied in Bern but his portrait of the majestic Berner Oberland is as unconvincing as his claim that sleepy little Bern is a major financial center. His phonetic attempt at Swiss German is laughable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than the last few in my view, 27 July 2012
This review is from: Our Kind of Traitor (Paperback)
I've become so disenchanted with Le Carre's conspiracy theories and barrage of cynicism that I've found his last few books hard going, and certainly not a patch on the old Cold War style novels. But this one got me back to some degree and I'm not really sure why. He certainly he has his own very distinctive style: if he was a poker player you'd easily be able to spot his "tells" and you either like that (or don't mind it at least) or you don't. His establishment characters don't seem to have changed in forty years but then that's the nature of the establishment. His Russians are larger than life, and I couldn't for the life of me work out what motivated Gail to fall in love with the children quite as much and as unthinkingly as she did (there are other things that motivate women beyond children, after all) but I was pretty gripped and didn't find the ending anything like as annoying as many people here have done.

It's nothing like his best, but it's much more like it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My kind of novel, 28 Jan 2012
There is no middle ground here, you either categorise this is as imaginative fiction, superbly drawn certainly, from the titbits we have gleaned over the years from press coverage of the secret service, films we have seen and half believed, and then with a good helping of inside knowledge thrown in, or, and this is where I sit, you believe every word is true, because John Le Carre relates a story in such simple and straightforward terms, with such veracity, clarity and detail, that it cannot but be real. And that's the tease, because you know it is fiction yet everything on these pages is possible.

Much of this credibility cloak has been created by Le Carre himself of course. From Alec Lemas to George Smiley he has had us join forces with a stream of agents and their operators who have fought the unseen foe on our behalf, who we needed to believe were doing just that and who faded back into their shadowy world once the job was done. When the cold war held sway we traded spies and military secrets, confronted alternative political regimes and sought to uphold a freedom that was denied those persecuted by the red boot to the east. Now it is global finance, and people are bought not with ideals but blood money, extorted money then laundered through our very own financial systems, and in such vast amounts that no-one is immune to its parasitic advances. No-one that is except a core of old-school die-hards who will still fight and if necessary die for a set of values and a way of life we believe to be essentially British but will share with those we can trust.

I would guess you either like Le Carre's approach or you don't, simple as that. It is not all action, James Bond stuff, it is about the thinking process, assessing, re-assessing the potential defector, testing the water, imagining the what-if, risk and reward. And if you thnk that has changed since 1950 in favour of all-action or techno-driven decision making then think again. As in any situation, the final choice comes down to one-to-one personalities, either you trust the person on the other side of the table or you don't; will you or wont you take the risk?

I won't pre-empt the story line here, suffice it to say the perils we face today, and the traitors in our midst, are every bit as insidious and dangerous as ever they were, and we need a secret service that is up to the job of defeating them. The problem is, that may just not be possible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not vintage Le Carré but an excellent presentation, 28 Nov 2011
By 
Mondoro (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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'Our Kind of Traitor' has earned some very mixed reviews, with criticism especially of its abrupt ending and use of stock characters. However, there are other ways of interpreting these stereotype figures, and one can read into the depiction of Dima, mafia boss in flight from Russia, le Carré's attempt to underline the sordid basis of the whole transaction with British intelligence by featuring a monster accustomed to getting compliance with his wishes (thus 'Our Kind of Traitor' as a re-working of the old Cold War adage about dictators). The accusation carries more weight in the case of Perry, an unconvincing kind of latter-day Henty hero attempting to shield his lover from the nasty world outside, and in doing so merely makes Gail suspicious of his motives, creating an unnecessary tension between them. But this is still le Carré, and he still writes brilliant dialogue and makes his usual perceptive observations of human behaviour and the motives of the powerful. The various de-briefing sessions are set out with the forensic detail of the earlier spy novels, and serve to remind us that relations between Russia and Britain have often been fraught since the collapse of Soviet Russia. Not vintage le Carré by any means, but still an estimable work from one of our leading novelists.

This BBC audiobook features Michael Jayston, a master of accents: I counted almost a dozen, from Russia mafia boss to educated Scots, and creates vivid verbal pictures of Dima's hideaway in Antigua, the claustrophobic debriefing room in London, and tennis matches in Paris. Although he pauses to mark the frequent flashbacks that le Carré employs to complete his story, one has to listen closely to keep up with the narrative. An excellent presentation, to match the other unabridged le Carré audiobooks Jayston has made recently.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 15 Dec 2010
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a review of the BBC's unabridged audio book of le Carre's novel. Thinking positively this is, obviously, a full version of the novel so it's not necessary to think about what might have been cut to fit onto a couple of CDs - this work stretches to 14. Also it's well read with the narrator doing characterisations very well indeed.

Thinking less positively, it's something of an effort to work through the CDs. The plot is fairly weak and a little tedious. In fact it feels overlong, so perhaps the abridged version might be better! I also found some aspects of the writing style irritating. There's overuse of phrases, from most of the characters such as 'That's right, isn't it xxx', 'He did, didn't he', 'Am I right' and more. I actually found waiting for these repeated phrases rather more interesting than the book.

Overall, I'd buy the book rather than the CDs. If you have a spare 14 hours or so, it would be better spent reading than listening.
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Our Kind of Traitor
Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré (Paperback - 26 May 2011)
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