Monday, January 10, 2011

John LeCarre: Our Kind of Traitor

Yours truly has been a John LeCarre fan for a long time. I have encountered his work both in his novels and in film and television productions of them. He started writing about espionage (and more importantly, those involved in it) during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, he's dealt into corruption of a more private nature for the most part, or one could say in the spirit of current parlence, within context of a public-private partnership. In some ways, his more recent work makes one almost pine for the good ol' Commies. Now, the nemesis is often found in the nefarious world of corporate crime or "the Americans" running rough-shod into some scheme justified by the "War on Terror" (a term that should be burned at the stake). LeCarre isn't the type of writer you want to read if you want to always look on the bright side of life (to borrow a turn of phrase from his fellow Brits @ Monty Python's Flying Circus).

As to this particular book, I found it one of the most engaging by LeCarre that I've read. I enjoyed its immediate predecessor--A Most Wanted Man--as well, but in this novel the array of characters really drew me in. The central characters are a young British couple who encounter a family led by a Russian mobster. However, the mobster quickly displays many endearing qualities, plus he has a desire to avenge a death by fellow mobsters. He goes looking for "fair play English". The story unfolds from this chance vacation encounter in Antiqua, to London, to Switzerland. During the novel we come to know a number of different characters, and LeCarre paints each one with details that give us a sense of the individuality of each of them. Indeed, as the novel progresses, I come to hope for a happy ending for all of them. But, of course, this is LeCarre, and one just doesn't think that things will work out that way. Of course, to learn how it turns out you'll to read the book.

P.S. I didn't link to Amazon's site for the book as I normally do. I listened to this book, I did not read it. The audio presentation was quite good, with the narrator providing excellent characterization to the dialogues. Highly recommended.


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