A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre

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A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: John Le Carré back where he belongs, in the world of spooks and distrust, but somehow I do feel that he's not as confident here as he was in the old days when we knew our enemy as well as we knew our friends. Now, we're not even sure which is which, or why. A good gripping read as you'd expect, but I found the ending a bit too 'pat'.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 371 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Sceptre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444769302

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Melik is a Turkish heavy-weight boxing champion. He lives with his widowed mother in Hamburg and they are both doing their very best to keep below the radar. Since his father died they don’t even go to the mosque on a regular basis. But this particular weekend Leyla wants to go. Her daughter, still in Turkey, is getting married, and a special prayer seems to be in order. It is a visit that might well end up costing them the eight years good behaviour needed to finally get beyond their tolerated status to enable full German citizenship.

On this particular Friday, they are followed from the mosque. To be fair, Melik has been followed before but may not have noticed.

The follower eventually announces himself. Issa. And he wants to study medicine. But right now he needs help.

Issa is just about as illegal as they come. Imprisoned in Russia, or maybe Turkey or maybe both for some unnamed offence – as if being Chechen isn't offence enough in some parts of the world – he has escaped, by way of Sweden and Denmark and one more capture and one more jail-break en route, just to ensure that there is an Interpol warrant out for him.

That's a story that may take a while to be allowed out. Leyla takes him in, because he is a muslim and he clearly needs help. That simple. That deadly. Melik is not quite so trusting.

Issa is not completely alone in the world however. He has on his side the radical young lawyer, Ananabel Richter. She is of ultra-traditional legal stock – only her brother has managed to escape the family firm to become a doctor – but she plies her trade at the margins, working for Sanctuary North, a help-centre for would-be refugees and others with nowhere else to turn.

It is Annabel who brings the case of Issa to Tommy Brue. Brue is an ex-pat Brit with a private bank to his name. The family inheritance buys prestige but the bank itself has outlived its glory days, the retreat from Vienna to Hamburg might not have been entirely voluntary, but it is just one of the many myths that surround the legacy that Brue doesn't fully understand – his father would never have let him in on all of the secrets – but about which he knows enough to know it is as much a threat as a prop to the business in the new world order.

Issa, it seems, is a connection to the old world order. He has, it would seem, a key to one of the Lippizaner accounts. Named for the famous horses of the Spanish riding school. Like the horses the Brue Lippizaners were also not born white, but black, and only grew white with age.

With his personal life as rocky as his business interests, it is no wonder that Brue is intoxicated by the passionate young lawyer and as the claim appears to be real he gets drawn further into to an affair which he had no way of knowing would bring him at this late stage into the remit of three of the world's most powerful intelligence agencies.

If you thought that following the end of the Cold War, any number of hatchets had been buried think again. If Le Carré has anything like a finger on the pulse as he once did, then the enmities run rife among friends as much as they ever did.

No mention of hacking the phones of Presidents here, but clearly there is no love lost between the various agencies, each with their own take on the new world threat of militant Islamism.

From the master of the spy novel, the book is of course utterly readable and totally believable. It spins not on gadgets except in so far as the plot wouldn't work if all of the gadgets did – a foible I found hard to forgive. It runs instead along the fault lines of human allegiances and failures and favourites and treacheries.

It should be a no-brainer automatic recommendation of a book, but I can't go that far. I found the final denouement a complete wash-out. I felt, there is no other way to say this, cheated. Of course, a number of the characters would also be left feeling they had been robbed and maybe this is the point, but as a reader, I can't buy into that. It just felt, to me at least, as though the author had painted himself into a corner and couldn't find a better way out of it.

Or maybe he'd just gotten bored with the whole premise and this was a nice neat solution.

I have to give it the four stars because it is a gripping read – right up until the point at which it isn't. As for a recommendation though, that has to come down on the side of a 'maybe'.

For classic spy-mastery you have to go back to the early days: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - there really is no-one who comes close to the early episodes from the master. Unless you want to go back to Graham Greene and Ian Flemming - and forget all the silly films along the way.

Buy A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre at Amazon.com.


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