Friday, 3 October 2014

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

review by Maryom

When he turns up in Hamburgh, illegal immigrant Issa Karpov  is ragged, ill and shows signs of recent torture. Finding refuge with a Turkish family, he approaches a human rights lawyer, Annabel Richter, to help him gain access to money deposited by his now-deceased Russian gangster father in a less-than-above-board account with private bank Brue Freres. Not that he actually wants the money for himself - he claims all he wants is to qualify as a doctor and go home to help less fortunate folk back in Chechnya. The current head of the bank, Tommy Brue, is swayed by Annabel, and finds himself drawn in to her schemes, but Issa has come to the attention of the intelligence services who have their own plans for him...

Since the good old Cold War days of Leamas and Smiley I've read some le Carré novels that haven't quite lived up to my expectations  - this time he's back on form inside the double/triple dealing world of espionage. Set against a backdrop of international terrorism and 'extraordinary rendition', A Most Wanted Man captures a shadowy half-world where there may be terrorists at large or the intelligence services may be jumping at shadows and making their own fears real. 

Issa is the fly caught up in a spider's web of intrigue and he's such an enigmatic figure that it's hard to decide which view of him is correct - the dangerous terrorist or innocent caught up in events beyond his control. The same ambiguity applies to many of the other characters too so the reader isn't certain whose opinion to trust and whose to dismiss as biased and paranoid. It's a world where individuals count for very little - are just there to be manipulated as means to an end - and whose muddy waters are too quick to spread - Annabel Richter and Tommy Brue start out as 'normal' fairly ethical, honourable types but even they find themselves corrupted by the forces they come into contact with.

As with the Smiley novels, it's a rather sedentary plot - it moves forward through the close analysis of files, the following of paper trails and the dredging up of half-forgotten memories - a device that works well in book-form but I wonder how well it's transcribed itself to film. From the trailer, I suspect a lot of cloak and dagger action has been added, and maybe a chase scene or two.....  I'm going to need to go to a cinema and check, purely for research.....

Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher -  Sceptre
Genre - spy thriller

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