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As he approaches the microphone, he adjusts his tie as well as his accent, with just a hint of his Glaswegian upbringing on show, but not too much, of course. Man of the people. "Allegations have been made concerning an initiative undertaken by New Labour, supposedly in concert with the U.S. government and with the support of a fundamentalist U.S. conglomerate on the soil of gallant Gibraltar. I'm here to tell you unequivocally that no such initiative was sponsored by the British government," he lies, and takes a sip of water. Le Carre, the author of such 20th-century classics as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, has nothing left to prove except that he can still be stung into turning out suspenseful, totally convincing political object lessons, as in his attack on the pharmaceutical industry in 2001's The Constant Gardener. His target of choice here is the mendacity of the British government and the easy camaraderie between the public and private sectors. -VERDICT This is a guaranteed hair-raising cerebral fright, especially for anyone who enjoyed Robert Harris's The Ghost or who just knows his or her email account has been hacked. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]-Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Shockingly, le Carre no longer writes about moral ambiguity. Gone is any semblance of the notion that a government and its emissaries in the secret services could ever be on the side of the individual. That's been true for several novels certainly since The Constant Gardener (2001) but le Carre's latest is perhaps the most definitive statement yet of his new worldview. It starts with a 2008 counterterrorism operation, code-named Wildfire, gone wrong. A team of agents, led by a British foreign minister and a private defense contractor, was charged with capturing a terrorist on the island of Gibraltar. Billed as a rousing success, the op was, in fact, a fiasco. Three years later, a now-disgraced British agent tells the real story to retired diplomat Sir Christopher Probyn, also involved in the mission but in the dark as to what actually happened. Probyn eventually teams with Toby Bell, secretary to the minister in charge of Wildfire. Bell, also in the dark, starts digging and finds he faces a personal crisis: expose the cover-up and scuttle his career or keep quiet. Whistle-blowers risking life and livelihood to bring evil bureaucrats to their knees have long been a staple of espionage fiction. In le Carre's new world, however, evil bureaucrats never skin their knees; there are no happy endings, even attenuated ones. We commented in our 2008 review of le Carre's A Most Wanted Man (a film version of which will open in the fall) on the slow, inexorable way that, in the novel, institutional will grinds down individual lives. That grinding process is even more brutal this time around, as le Carre further establishes himself as a master of a new, shockingly realistic kind of noir in which right-thinking individuals who challenge the institutional order of things always lose. No ambiguity there but plenty of gut-wrenching tragedy. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It's been nearly 50 years since le Carre broke through with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. He has set the bar ever since for espionage fiction that appeals to head and heart rather than just quickening the reader's pulse.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist
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State-sanctioned duplicity drives bestseller le Carre's entertainingly labyrinthine if overly polemical 23rd novel, which features a corrupt British Foreign Office minister, Fergus Quinn, and an American private defense contractor "best known as Ethical Outcomes." In 2008, a cloak-and-dagger plot to capture an arms dealer in Gibraltar under the mantle of counterterrorism goes awry. Quinn's secretary, Toby Bell, who was kept out of the loop, has incriminating information about the mission and the chance to use it three years later when one of the soldiers involved ends up dead and a retired British diplomat, roped into participating against his will, tries to salve his conscience about some nasty pieces of collateral damage. As usual, le Carre (Our Kind of Traitor) tells a great story in sterling prose, but he veers dangerously close to farce and caricature, particularly with the comically amoral Americans. His best work has been about the moral ambiguity of spying, while this novel feels as if the issue of who's bad and who's good is too neatly sewn up. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.