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Archive for the ‘John Le Carre’ Category

The Secret PilgrimThe Secret Pilgrim by John le Carré
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another classic from John Le Carre. This time it is not a full story. It is a series of small stories around the Secret Agent Ned and his cases which had association with the ever green George Smiley.

The book starts off during the time when Ned is an instructor teaching a bunch of trainees selected for the Secret Service. On the “Graduation Day” Ned sends an invitation to George Smiley asking him to address the new graduates half expecting that the invitation will be refused. But to his surprise Smiley accepts the invitation and comes for the ceremony.

The book revolves around the talk that Smiley gives the trainees. The statements made by Smiley trigger off different reminiscences in Ned’s and these are the stories that are told in the book.

A typical classic from John Le Carre. The last but two story is a beautiful read. It is about how Ned manages to eke out a confession from one of the cyber clerks who has been passing on secrets to a Russian spy. The conversation between Ned and the clerk is worth a read and could be a study material in any human psychology class.

The last but one which is actually the view of George Smiley on the Secret Service is also a wonderful read.

A must for all John Le Carre fans.

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The Night ManagerThe Night Manager by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of an ex-British army personnel who becomes a Night Manager in hotel. He is unable to hold back when he is passed some dark arms and drugs deals happening in Egypt involving a British citizen and local gangster by a lady who happens to be the current mistress of the local gangster. The leak is discovered to the lady and she is beaten up. She comes to him for solace which he provides. But she is murdered when it is discovered that she has leaked key information regarding the deals and when she challenges the gangster.
He then moves on to Zurich where he again comes across the same British residence and chances upon tidbits of his current dealings and passes it on the local British spies.
Based on these incidents he is recruited by one of the small arm of the British Intelligence. He is given a new identity and a setup is done where he is portrayed to kill his business partner. He then escapes to Canada where he lives as a cook and then moves to the Caribbean where the British National is based.
A kidnapping of the son of the British National is staged in the Caribbean and the Night Manager wins the trust of the British National and moves into his household as a “signer” (He signs deals on behalf of the businessman so that no fingers can be pointed to him) replacing the earlier one.
The rest of the story is how he manages to get information about key deals of this businessman and how he gets caught because of the infighting between the British and the American intelligence agencies.
For a change the story does not end in much of a tragedy.

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A Small Town In GermanyA Small Town In Germany by John le Carré
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another tragic book. The story starts with the workings of the British Embassy in Bonn during the cold war era. It is the period when the neo-nazi/communist uprising in Germany and Britishers are being targeted. They are led by a charismatic leader Klaus Karfield.
The book is about how and why a lone, isolated, temporary employee of the British Embassy tries to bring the downfall of this said Karfield.
A wonderful book which will tug at your heart and at places may make the weak shed a few tears.
Read the book for the denouement.

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Call for the DeadCall for the Dead by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another short and sweet spy story from the master spy story teller. The story begins with the suicide (murder?) of a British Diplomat from the Foreign ministry who had been interviewed by Smiley the earlier day for his alleged links with the Communists during his Oxford days. This interview was prompted based on an anonymous letter to the Foreign office.
Smiley is sent to talk to the widow of the diplomat and to close the case as a suicide. Smiley smells something rotten and goes about investigating the case with the help of a local policeman.
To see what he uncovers read the book.
Another of John Le Carre’s good books.

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The Mission SongThe Mission Song by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book deals with another naive character created by John Le Carre. The underlying theme that John Le Carre seems to bring about is how the naive and soft characters fail miserably in spying and how one needs to be cut-throat without any scruples to be a good spy. The protagonist is a bastard son of Belgian priest and a local girl in East Congo. He is brought up by his father and in the process he picks up a variety of languages.
Using this skill and his relatively fair skin he becomes a translator in UK where the Intelligence Bureau finds him work. He is ask to preside as a translator for a deal that the agency is getting into with one of the leaders in Congo.
In the meantime the translator has fallen out with his high profile while spouse and has found solace in a nurse from Congo whom he meets during his translation for an African patient at a hospital.
After helping out the Intelligence Bureau his stuck by remorse by his own thoughts and his interaction with the nurse from Congo.
He tries to rectify the situation by meeting many people at high places. The end of the book is how different people react when he reaches out to them to correct the wrong that he helped setting in motion.

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A Most Wanted ManA Most Wanted Man by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even when writing a novel based in a different era (post 9/11) John Le Carre manages to engage ones attention to what he wishes to say. The smells of John Le Carre are all over, but the perfume of “The Spy who came from the cold” is missing.
The book is about a chechnyian Muslim youth (son of a Russian Red Army General, now dead) suspected terrorist who comes to Hamburg to start a new life with the help of a Banker.
The British banker in question runs a bank that accepted investments from the Russian Red Army personnel in his father’s time to help the British recruit the Russians for information from the iron curtain. The Chechnyan youth happens to be the bastard son of one of such a Red Army personnel and he has come to get the bankers help in trying to finance his medical studies without staking a claim to his blood inheritance.
The authorities is convinced that he is a terrorist, but a kind lawyer working with an institute for destitute immigrants along with a ex secret agent try to secure him his freedom.
The banker refuses to do so unless the claimant makes a claim to the inheritance as a way to stall the claim. At this juncture a peace loving Muslim preacher based in Hamburg is introduced. This person diverts some of the funds that he collects for the various charities to different “terrorist” organizations round the world. The services of this preacher are sought to guide the Chechnyian youth as to how best the youth can utilize the funds that he would be in possession of for the good use of the Umma.
And then begins the denouement. Read the book to get the rest of the story.
All in all a good John Le Carre read for his fans, and not to be picked up by others who have not read is earlier books. Reading this book would deter one from reading his other books which will not do justice to his earlier writings.

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The Spy Who Came in from the ColdThe Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the best books in Spy novels. Based in the cold war era. The books starts with a British spy failing in his mission to bring over his biggest catch from East Germany to West Germany. The spy is shot at the last moment in the no mans land between the two Germanys. The disillusioned spy comes back to Britain and soon is dismissed from service. He falls into bad times. He lives the life of a recluse doing odd jobs. Eventually he joins a library as a helping hand and falls in love with another girl working in the same library who happens to be a registered communist party member. He nevertheless continues the relationship with the girl. He falls ill and is tended to by the girl. He gets into a tiff with the local grocer and assaults him physically.
He spends sometime in the jail for a few months and on release is approached by an communist agent and is soon recruited for his working knowledge of spy system of Britain.
He is debriefed by the the communists and is taken over to East Germany for further questioning. He is questioned by the same people on whom he was spying a few years ago.
For what happens next read the book. It is too good to break the suspense here.
All in all a wonderful read for somebody who likes the cold war era spy novels.

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Smiley's PeopleSmiley’s People by John le Carré
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful book from whom seems to be master of the Spy world in the Cold War era. Now that the cold war has ended one doubts if one will get newer authors who will be able to write such novels.
The books begins with the life of an ex Russian lady who was married to a Red Army defector. People ry to get in touch with her to tell her that her daughter will be coming to stay with her.
She wants to believe that she will be able to undo her sins by taking care of her daughter whom she had abandoned for freedom in the west, soon after she was born.
But something makes her get in touch with another defector, an old General from the Red Army. The general now living in London sends somebody to meet the lady and in trying to follow up the events gets murdered.
This brings Smiley back into the fore and he is asked to cover up the entire incident. But Smiley is not one to take things so easily.
The books goes on to reveal how Smiley traces out the turn of events from the first incident till he nets his nemesis Karla with the help of earlier mates.
The denouement is excellent and must be read to appreciate. The last 10 – 15 pages simply thrills one to the core.

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Single & SingleSingle & Single by John le Carré
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book different from the normal spy other thrillers. A lawyer gets shot somewhere in Russia or Turkey?
The book traces the reasons behind this through the son of the owner of the law firm.
Single and Single is a law firm which helps the firms launder their ill gained wealth. The father is running the show and when the son comes of age he joins the firm. But is disillusioned with the workings of the firm. The firm starts laundering money for a Russian firm. Russia is on the cusp of Perestroika and Glasnost. Soon the firm finds that its contacts in the Government are not going to help it make the money it had planned and it moves into the more lucrative trade of plying narcotics. The son spills the beans to a customs officer and the client suffers huge losses.
This leads to the killing of the lawyer from his firm. The father tries to run away from the firm by trying to be friendly with them. In the end the son goes and rescues his father from their clutches.

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The Tailor of PanamaThe Tailor of Panama by John le Carré

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is an atypical spy book. There is no suspense. A tailor in Panama is selected by the British to provide information to the British intelligence because his customers include top level officials of Panama including the President himself.

The tailor has been a con from the beginning of his life. His whole life is based on lies. The British use the information they have on him to coerce him to provide them with intelligence reports based on what he hears his customer’s speak.

Finding no way to get out of the bind without jeopardizing his life he starts conning the British Intelligence Agent and starts feeding him stories of his own making interspersed with some real life hearsay.

The British Agent who recruits him is himself a fraud who is trying to make a quick buck by using this posting as a milking cow. Both together create a situation which leads to the friend of the tailor committing suicide. This provides the Americans a “peg” based on which they invade of Panama. This breaks the heart of the tailor who gives up his life while the British Agent having made is money starts making merry.

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