International Writers Magazine:
Most Wanted Man by John Le Carré
Hodder and Stoughton
Marcel D'Agneau review
a new John Le Carré is like meeting an old friend. A little
faded, but still the same old guy, same old smile and its
good company and you cant quite recall why you havent
been seeing more of him lately.
Most Wanted Man is his latest and with shock you realise that
you have skipped the last few, despite one time you were devoted
to him and read everything he wrote ever since The Spy who came
in from the Cold. Reading about spies and Germany and Russia seemed
irrelevant for a while but now thanks to Putins paranoia with
the West, everything is back to normal and the cold war is resumed
or should we call it the gas war.
I never entirely
gave up reading spy fiction, but gravitated to Robert Littel and of
course Martin Cruz Smith, American writers who just seemed to have more
interesting themes. Littel with his monumental history of the CIA The
Company and Cruz Smith in particular with his Wolves Eat Dogs
on Chernobyl 20 years on.
So, now a mysterious young man Issa, a Muslim, of confused identity
Chechen, Turkish, most likely Russian, approaches a Turkish stranger,
a heavyweight boxer no less and devout Muslim and demands food and shelter.
At first the Turk, Melik is reluctant, but his mother Leyla is sympathetic
and he is taken in. He is sick and his tale of being smuggled out of
Chechnya by way of Sweden in a container where he was discovered and
bribed his way out to get to Hamburg is a common enough tale for economic
refugees now. The fact that he appears to have been tortured and held
in jails in Turkey and elsewhere adds to the mystery and the righteousness
of taking him in. How could someone so young be anything other than
Enter Annabel, a young German idealistic lawyer for human rights working
for Sanctuary North a Christian based Foundation for the protection
of stateless persons. She digs deeper and it seems Issa is in fact half-Russian
and has in fact come to Hamburg to claim his birthright, money held
in a private bank, Brue Freres, run by Tommy Brue, an English ex-pat
married to a German in an unhappy marriage.
This is a story about saving a soul. Issa doesnt want the millions
a deposited by his dead and corrupt father in Brues bank. He wants
it to go to help struggling Chechens and towards his studies to be a
doctor. Brue is worried that the young man isnt who he says he
is and Annabel is falling a little in love with this altruistic and
devout young man.
Unfortunately for all parties Issa is known to German, America and British
intelligence as a terrorists who has taken many lives. And they are
desperate to find him. Now begins a game of cat and mouse and claim
and counter claim and entrapment of a third party.
No one particularly comes off well in this. The money is dirty, the
boy is a liar, the bank is in trouble, Annabel is well connected but
out on a limb and the poor Turks who took him in doomed.
This is classic Le Carré. Plots interwoven within plots, characters
out of their depth, spies relentlessly chipping away at the truth and
sowing seeds of doubt and compromising all. Its a complex tale
in a confused Europe and an excellent insight into the shifting sands
that is modern politics in the 21st Century.
Le Carré is still in top form.
D'Agneau December 2008
the author of 'Eeny Meeny Miny Mole' and occasional contributor to Hackwriters
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