In a world of constant change and rising menace, it’s good to know that John Le Carré still has it.
This won’t go down as one of his great works but it’s still a pretty sharp take on the western world post-Brexit/Trump through the eyes of a disaffected anti-Russia SIS operative who has been mothballed for most of the last two decades while Britain and her American ally swung their swords in the middle east. With Vladimir Putin leading the digital charge to break up liberal democracy in the west and dial back the Cold War, new angles on an old nemesis must be taken.
This one is much easier to follow than most Le Carré novels; you only get one perspective and the plot is simple. But Le Carré decorates it well with his typical English musings on class, politics, and the spy game, coupled with a suspense that builds through the final page. Nat is no doubt a stand in for the author himself; horrified at the right wing turn of Britain yet too old and irrelevant to do much about it, with a young activist daughter who reminds him all the time how he and his generation ruined her world. It makes for a fun, readable, at times hilarious tale.
I didn’t care much for the ending, which felt sentimental and contrived compared to most of Le Carré’s work. But I have a feeling that he felt he had to do it for himself. In this time, as with espionage in any time, you take your wins where you can get them.