When the Cold War ended, many critics wondered whether its chronicler-in-chief John le Carré had lost his subject matter. In a series of novels, The Constant Gardener, Absolute Friends and The Mission Song, he has confounded the sceptics by focusing his consummate writing skills on laying bare the iniquities of the international politico-corporate structure – from the illegal invasion of Iraq to the murderous amorality of Big Pharma. His latest novel could hardly be more topical or timely, dealing as it does with the seamier reaches of international banking and the nether-world inhabited by the fugitive and the stateless.
An unlikely trio of characters find themselves thrown together; Issa, a Chechen Muslim arrives illegally in Hamburg. There he seeks the aid of Annabel, an idealistic human rights lawyer and, with her help, he lays claim to a huge sum deposited with Brue Freres, a private bank run by Tommy Brue, an Englishman beset with marital and financial complications. Issa, Annabel and Tommy are inexorably drawn into the webs of the competing spy networks of Germany, Britain and the US as each attempts to use their ‘assets’ in the deep and morally ambiguous game they are pleased to call The War on Terror.
A Most Wanted Man is a page-turner in the classic style; the only fault being that the characters are slightly underdrawn and prone to expository soliloquies. Nevertheless, this is another splendid example of late-flowering le Carré. Long may he continue to skewer those who claim to be acting in our name and in our best interests.