Enter the new world of espionage, where the skills forged by generations of spies during the darkest days of the Cold War are put to even more terrifying use. Penetrate the secret world of ruthless arms dealers and drug smugglers who have risen th unthinkable power and wealth...
Le Carr returns to the same subject as his disappointingly episodic The Secret Pilgrim--the fate of espionage in the new world order--but now looks forward instead of backward, showing a not-quite innocent mangled between that new order and the old one, whose course le Carr has so peerlessly chronicled for 30 years. Jonathan Pine, night manager at a Cairo hotel, helps Arab playboy Freddie Hamid's mistress Madame Sophie photocopy papers linking him to arms mogul Richard Roper and, while he's at it, makes an extra copy to send to a friend in the Secret Service--only to find that the leak has gotten back to Freddie and that Jonathan's belated, guilty devotion to Sophie can't protect her from a fatal beating. Six months later, Jonathan, now working in Geneva, meets Roper in person and, vowing revenge, volunteers for Leonard Burr's fledgling government agency as the inside man who can supply actionable details of Roper's next arms- for-drugs deal. With the help of Whitehall mandarin Rex Goodhew, Burr sets up a plausibly shady dossier for Jonathan and stages the kidnapping of Roper's son so that Jonathan can foil the snatch and get invited aboard Roper's yacht. But even as Jonathan, still grieving for Sophie, finds himself attracted to Roper's bedmate Jed Marshall and overriding Burr's orders to stay out of Roper's papers, the boys in Whitehall--divided between independents like Goodhew, who want the old agencies broken up, and his cold-warrior nemesis Geoffrey Darker, who insists on maintaining centralized authority--are squabbling over control of the mission, with dire results for Jonathan, whose most dangerous enemies turn out to be his well-meaning masters back home. Despite the familiarity of the story's outlines, le Carr shows his customary mastery in the details--from Jonathan's self-lacerating momentum to the intricacies of interagency turf wars--and reveals once again why nobody writes espionage fiction with his kind of authority.
Witness John Le Carre's masterful take on Richard Onlsow "Dicky" Roper, the arms dealer we love to invite into our palace corridors through the backdoors of national security:
"Roper seemed not to hear. 'World's run by fear, you see. Can't sell pipe dreams, can't rule with charity, no good at all. Not in the real world. With me?' But he didn't wait to discover whether Jonathan was with him or not. 'Promise to build a chap a house, he won't believe you. Threaten to burn his place down, he'll do what you tell him. Fact of life.' He paused to double-mark time. 'If a bunch of chaps want to make war, they're not going to listen to a lot of wet-eared abolitionists. If they don't, doesn't matter whether they've got crossbows or Stingers. Fact of life. Sorry if it bothers you.'
Jonathan Pine has forsaken his Army career to become the night manager for a chain of posh hotels on the continent and in North Africa. They are so posh, in fact, that they cater to the utmost rabble in the overt underworld of arms dealers, drug smugglers, and most other criminal endeavors imaginable. As a sideline he dabbles in a bit of spying. Little wonder that a consortium of British covert factions seeks his favor to topple one of these evil empires. His past unravels to expose his future. But then, just as the trap is to be sprung, the government political criminals play their hands. It begins with turf spats and endswell read the book.
Newer (1993) Le Carre at his best. Good post-Cold War spy fiction.