What I really like about this writer is not just the plots but the intricate detail woven into the description of the characters. This book in particular scored brilliantly here. If anything the story ended too soon. I would have really enjoyed three more chapters.
Unbelievable to think it now, but the feeling a few years ago was that Le Carre and his fellow spy writers would struggle for storylines with the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. But the numerous civil wars around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, and the west's War on Terror have proven a most fertile ground for new plots.
All the action in `A Most Wanted Man' takes place in Hamburg, where an emaciated, illegal Chechen muslim immigrant, Issa Karpov, persuades a Turkish mother and son to take him in after following the son around for a few days.
Issa bears all the signs of having recently been tortured and he's a wanted man both in Sweden (from where he was smuggled in) and his homeland. Helped by human rights lawyer Annabel Richter, and Tommy Brue, a Scottish private banker who operates in the city, he apparently wishes only to qualify as a doctor to help those back home. He appears to be the son of a deceased Russian gangster, who opened an illegal account (a `Lipizzaner' - like the horse) with Tommy Brue's father back in Vienna before the bank relocated. And now Issa wishes to use that 'bad' money (some $12.5m) for the greater good. The German, British and American secret services are aware of him and in turn, wish to use HIM as bait to capture a bigger prize...
The plot is as complex as we've come to expect from the grand old man, and the humour just as sly and knowing. The motives of the leading players are deliberately hidden and almost right up until the very last page we're clueless as to how it will all end up.
He's great at portraying the duplicity, triplicity and even quadriplicity (I almost certainly made at least one of these words up!) in the spy world, and how no one can be taken at face value. Here the German, British and American spooks seem to reach an uneasy agreement on how to best exploit the position, but they're all still fighting their own corner and have very differing motives.
Let's talk about the prose quality: no other espionage writer comes close to matching the style, wit and erudition of Le Carre. He's 77 years old this year, but still very much the master craftsman, creating a mood or conjuring up a location with just a few carefully chosen words.
Stella Rimmington, ex-MI5 chief-turned novelist recently had a go at this new Le Carre novel in the Daily Mail, praising his 'readability' and writing style (she could hardly do anything else) but giving him only four out of ten for realism. Well nuts to you Ms Rimmington, I'm not particularly bothered if the old boy's grasp of modern secret service protocol and/or operating methods are a bit outmoded. This is how I want my Le Carre to be - old school - and proud of it - but still with a finger on the pulse of modern issues. I've never read any of your novels but I suspect you won't be praised and still read in fifty years time like this guy.
It's not `The Spy Who Came in From the Cold', but it is still great entertainment. Few fans will be disappointed with this. David John Cornwell, we salute you!
Continuing my slightly unusual new habit of reading John Le Carré's novels in reverse publication order, I've come to this story about an immigrant arriving in Germany to claim an inheritance. It has recently been made into a film (which I haven't seen), which surprised me slightly as I didn't feel it was as compelling as some of the other le Carré books I've recently read.
The most interesting story, to me, was the point of view of Annabel, and if this had been a John Grisham novel then she would have been the star. As it is, the focus is split between multiple characters, none of the rest of whom I found really compelling, and I wasn't able to generate a real interest in whether they succeeded in their goals.
Of particular note were a group of characters that I felt were added to the mix fairly late on. There were a lot of them, and I found it hard to distinguish between them, or understand their motives or goals. Perhaps this was part of a deliberate obfuscation, but I found it an irritant.
I've always been slightly dubious about reading le Carré, I think from a disappointing experience with an early novel when I was a teenager, but I'd been buoyed by recently reading 'Our Kind of Traitor' and 'A Delicate Truth', both of which were much more enjoyable than this.