TBR: A Most Wanted Man

Today's book is A Most Wanted Man, by John LeCarre.  I'm not going to give away the ending, but I don't think it's possible to talk about the book without spoiling it a little bit, so if  that's going to make you crazy, stop reading now.

Like all of LeCarre's books, this is a spy novel, although only one of the main characters is a spy master in the sense of LeCarre's cold war novels.  A young man half-Russian, half-Chechen with a history of imprisonment in Russian and Turkish jails finds his way to Hamburg.  Is he a terrorist?  A humanitarian refuge?  Just an ordinary illegal immigrant?  The novel never shows his point of view, so the reader is as much at a loss as the people who move in his orbit — an idealistic young lawyer, a pragmatic spymaster, a middle aged banker who is not as jaded as he thinks he is.

The characters were interesting, but never quite fully developed.  (The banker is the most fleshed out, and I think is LeCarre's stand-in in the novel.)  What interests LeCarre is the situation, and the philosophical questions: is the leader of a charitable organization where 5 percent of the money is diverted to terrorists entirely bad, or 95 percent good?  Does it matter?  (See today's headlines.)  Does old-fashioned spycraft still have a role to play in world of electronic eavesdropping and bombs on public transportation?

The ending approaches what a teacher of mine used to call a "beer truck ending" — an ending that comes out of nowhere, without connection to what has come before.  But it's not a matter of laziness on LeCarre's part.  He's making a very specific point about the fact that we live in a world where people can get run over by beer trucks in spite of their best laid plans.

One Response to “TBR: A Most Wanted Man”

  1. liz Says:

    Ooh! Sounds good!!! I’m putting that one on the list!

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