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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Usual Suspects

A Most Wanted Man - John le Carré

John Le Carre’s Smiley novels are unquestionably masterpieces. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union history pulled the carpet away from beneath him; since then he seems to have lost his relevance and is in danger of producing pastiches of himself.

There’s nothing new about A Most Wanted Man. Though it’s subject is ostensibly the war on terror, the plot is familiar Le Carre territory: inter-service rivalry, complicated financial transactions, the impossibility of old-fashioned values in a modern world, and the cynical calculations of espionage. The only change is that the CIA have replaced the KGB as the villains, determined to get their way by force and in doing so to shatter the complex web that has been so carefully spun by the German secret service.

The characters are the usual suspects from Le Carre’s stock-cupboard: innocents who get dragged into the world of real politik, spy-masters whose battle is as much against bureaucrats and politicians as it is against the enemies of the state, and eccentric patriots with a soft spot for a beautiful woman.

There’s very little substance to the story. Le Carre seems to have become a master of obfuscation. In his early books he made a lot of plot seem like a little; now he makes a little plot go a long way and the result is a novel which takes a long time to reach a predictable climax and never really delivers the emotional punch that it promises. I struggled to get to the end of this.