Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Page 44: A Most Wanted Man

John le Carre continues his great writing with this novel about a Chechnyan terrorist who shows up in Hamburg seeking help from a lawyer who works for an agency specializing in assisting paperless immigrants.  She feels sorry for Issa who appears to be an underfed and demoralized young man who says his only goal in life is to become a doctor.  The story moves somewhat slowly at first, but then becomes more complex when Turkish immigrants, a mother and son, the lawyer, and a banker try to help Issa.  As the security forces of Germany, England, and the United States pursue Issa the plot moves quickly to a most surprising and unsettling conclusion.

This book has mixed reviews, but I think it is one of his better ones.  Many critics thought John le Carre's books would not have the same flavor or substance after the end of the cold war, but they have been very mistaken.  I have been a fan of John le Carre's work since his early days.  The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and the classic trilogy about George Smiley and his opposite number in the Soviet Union, Carla, are some of the best of this genre.  There is still a great deal of material to be mined in the post cold war world, especially with the great battle going on between radical Islam and the western nations.

Here are a couple of reviews:
Publishers Weekly

"When boxer Melik Oktay and his mother, both Turkish Muslims living in Hamburg, take in a street person calling himself Issa at the start of this morally complex thriller from le CarrĂ© (The Mission Song), they set off a chain of events implicating intelligence agencies from three countries. Issa, who claims to be a Muslim medical student, is, in fact, a wanted terrorist and the son of Grigori Karpov, a Red Army colonel whose considerable assets are concealed in a mysterious portfolio at a Hamburg bank. Tommy Brue, a stereotypical flawed everyman caught up in the machinations of spies and counterspies, enters the plot when Issa's attorney seeks to claim these assets. The book works best in its depiction of the rivalries besetting even post-9/11 intelligence agencies that should be allies, but none of the characters is as memorable as George Smiley or Magnus Pym. Still, even a lesser le CarrĂ© effort is far above the common run of thrillers. (Oct.)"
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Bookmarks Magazine
"While this novel may be le Carre's first take on espionage in Europe after the Cold War, critics could not be more divided over its quality. Alan Furst, himself one of the greats of the genre, opines that A Most Wanted Man might be one of the author's best, not for its content so much as for its technical brilliance. But other reviewers panned the work, arguing that le Carre's outrage over recent American intelligence practices distorts the plot and renders many of the characters as mere cliches. Perhaps the consensus is that A Most Wanted Man is an enjoyable le Carre novel (and therefore much better than most thrillers)—but far from his best."
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
As with any creative work, opinions may vary.  Books are like movies, they receive good and bad reviews, but the ultimate decision is up to the viewer or the reader as the case may be.  Use your own judgement.  I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of spy novels or just like to read an author who is at the top of his game.
Coming soon, another John le Carre novel, Our Kind of Traitor

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