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As relevant and contemporary as ever,
This review is from: A Most Wanted Man (Hardcover)
I've long been among the first in line for the new John le Carre, so was pleased to find this book on sale for half price at Waterstones last week. Throughout a long writing career (this novel is his 21st), le Carre has continued to return to the themes of deception and betrayal and, although he's used an interesting variety of geographical locations for his settings, those of us who've spent a long time immersed in his world have started to identify common characteristics in his dramatis personae. Thus, in this story, the befuddled Englishman who tries to do the right thing has echoes of, amongst others, Harry Pendel in The Tailor of Panama, Ted Mundy in Absolute Friends and Tim Cranmer in Our Game. And the attractive idealistic female lawyer is strongly reminiscent of Tessa Quayle in The Constant Gardener.
But these links to older books don't mean that le Carre's running out of ideas, or is merely turning out variations on those same themes. Although he returns explicitly to the privations of the war on terror here (which he last visited in 2003's Absolute Friends) he's still as original and contemporary as ever. Part of this comes from his choice of Hamburg as a setting; one of his characters helpfully reminds his audience (and some of the book's readers) that Mohammed Atta was a worshipper in one of this city's mosques. And, in an aside that sounds devastatingly - even uncannily - up-to-date in these troubled times, another character in the banking business is heard worrying about the subprime mortgage market.
One of the memorable things le Carre said during a rare public speaking appearance in London last week was that he always wanted to be writing in the present, to be as relevant and contemporary as possible. Judging from this important contribution to an impressive body of work, I'd say that he's succeeded once again.