For years I assumed that Le Carré was Dad Lit, along the lines of Tom Clancy or John Grisham. Blame those glossy 80s covers, I guess, or my own Dad’s appreciation of them. Sorry, Dad. It took the combined forces of Oldman, Hardy, Cumberbatch, Strong & Firth (not to mention my beloved Kathy Bates) in the recent top drawer film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy to get me to read the Karla trilogy, which I roared through and absolutely adored. I had no idea that this holiday-home-reading-shelf staple was so brilliantly witty, wry, sharp, sad, and surprisingly queer, both poignant and pointed about the decline of the Empire viewed in the microcosm of MI6.
Le Carré is that rare creature, a sure bet. His books are always good-to-excellent, and even though his latest isn’t quite in the league of his masterpieces, it’s still a killer read with a sharp edge to it. Like the recent headline says, he ain’t mellowed with age. This is a story with teeth.
It took me a little while to ease into it, which is probably more my fault than the novel, but once I let the familiar elements grip me – a lone man in the system, pervasive corruption, opacity, sex, dryly observed social mores, the anti-glamour of the secret world of the foreign service – I was riveted. Without giving too much away, it starts in 2008 with a man in a hotel room, on a top secret mission, and then goes ahead four years later, where many people have to deal with the unforeseen consequences of that evening. Deadly stuff.