A Delicate Truth opens in 2008. A counter-terrorist operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far right. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister’s personal private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it.
Cornwall, UK, 2011: A disgraced Special Forces Soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be - or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher ("Kit") Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house, and closely observed by Kit’s beautiful daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his Service. If the only thing necessary to the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, how can he keep silent?
©2013 John le Carré (P)2013 Penguin Audio
trying to see the world with my ears
Although this is didactic Le Carre -- a cautionary tale of war and intelligence gone corporate -- it’s also a very exciting listen. Le Carre's plot, prose, character, and dialogue are superior to any other espionage novelist I've encountered, and he’s at his best when creating ethical dilemmas (though any including defense contractors and lobbyist-types are less morally ambiguous than in some of his classic novels!)
I loved loved loved being read to by Le Carre! The narration is actually excellent once your ear tunes into him, except for one questionable production choice, an incident of which pops up in the audio sample provided: A "handler" when on a telephone echoes like bad long distance circa cold war landlines. This is not characteristic of the listen as a whole, however.
As a novel this may not stand among Le Carre’s finest, but as a contemporary espionage yarn it can’t be beat. There are some now standard le Carre characters and political stances, but what delightful dialogue, character observation and sharp turns-of-phrases. Graham Greene would have loved this entertainment.
This novel reminds me of why I love reading. Having the author tell me the story and "turn his own phrase" and "bite" his own dialogue is icing.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
If for whatever reason, during the last twenty years, you've missed John le Carré's anger, and if his last 10 books were too subtle for you, and if you didn't catch le Carré's moral outrage in 'the Constant Gardner' and 'a Most Wanted Man', then you might need to skip 'A Delicate Truth'. In his newest novel, John le Carré tackles the amoral world of private contract espionage, rendition, and ineptness. Le Carré attacks Western ethics, Western hypocrisy, the West's venal “war gone corporate.”
John le Carré war is a battle of young idealism vs amoral and often incompetent mercenaries. It is a war of principled, but flawed individuals vs what Olen Steinhauer summarized as the "shortsightedness, hypocrisy, lies and unfettered greed that plagues the “post-imperial, post-cold-war world".
This isn't the most artful of le Carré's novels, but it is probably one of his sharpest. He dares the reader to follow him in his role as a latter-day Jeremiah of espionage and statecraft. He condemns the hypocrisy and the false gods of the Post-Iraq War/WOT West in his aim to "root out, pull down, destroy and throw down" the inhuman idols of the West. His NeoCon critics might aim for le Carré's eyes, but they can't destroy his vision or overlook his balls
I really enjoy John LeCarre books. They are all so erudite. However, I have two complaints with this reading. First, the language of the British elite becomes very annoying over time and very difficult to understand for a non-Britisher. Do they really speak this way? It was almost as if LeCarre was reading at 1 1/2 speed. I even tried to listen to the book at .75 speed but it sounded ridiculous. My second complaint is that this plot seemed exactly like The Constant Gardener. It's nice to think that there are people like the protagonist who is willing to sacrifice his life for "the truth" but I find it hard to believe that a person with his experience in Government service would have stayed in this service. The fact that several innocents who are collateral damage in a botched plot would drive all of these hard bitten men to sacrifice their lives is too much to swallow. I think the statement by the "bad guy" at the end who said, "if you want to see collateral damage, watch the films of drone strikes," was really the most rational argument against the protagonist's idealistic pleadings. The plot veered to much towards a "Bourne Identity" one in that every move the protagonist made was instantly known and acted upon by the Government and its henchment and undercut LeCarre's belief that the Government was stupid and plodding. The fact implied in the book that the Government was bought and paid for by private industry and that its agents had the ability to instantaneously react to a phone call is not believable. The ultimate feeling one comes away with is that the situation is hopeless and all good mens' actions are a waste of time and they will die in the attempt to fulfill their ideals. Wasn't that the take away from The Constant Gardener?
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
An espionage novel that works well outside the Cold War, cerebral but not pretentious.
First of all, he's a marvelous reader. Usually I hate it when an author wants to read his own book, but he was great. He had accents for everyone. He just couldn't do it for women though. And the story is intricate enough to deserve a second listen. But I want more too. Write faster please.
Say something about yourself!
I would have passed on reviewing this novel as the last le Carré novel I read was Constant Gardner, followed by about a third of Tinker Tailor..., and I feel there are more informed le Carré fans that already cover his books with better insight than I could. But, I recommended this book to a friend that disliked it very much, surprised that I liked it at all. Looking again at the reviews (which convinced me to try le Carré again), I realized most of the reviewers indicate they are fans or followers of le Carré's work. I'm a fan, but not so consistent. I view le Carré's novels as timeless, sophisticated writing about British espionage, characteristically strongly tinted with lively moral outrage, (and--nothing like James Bond) -- I've followed his books long enough to accept this caveat upon purchase. I now understand how a reader experiencing the le Carré phenomenon for the first time might think they are getting a lightweight piece of British noir from a white-hat-wearing cantankerous Brit with a bad taste for Americans and a diseased society.
Le Carré characters tell the story to the reader with a person to person intimate style, very much in character, passing along the top secret story and bringing the reader into the espionage, something he does better than any contemporary writer in this genre. As in any conversation, if you aren't listening to the person speaking to you, especially in the sometimes hushed tones of esoteric code-speak, affected with the innuendo of the specific lifestyle, you won't know what is going on. A Delicate Truth begins in a confusing maelstrom of events; le Carré doesn't insult the reader's intelligence by spoon-feeding you the game plan, or by bloating the dialogue with information -- attention and observation crystallize the details as you listen. The characters aren't overly sketched, but the details garnered are artfully defining and individual hallmarks. He leaves the tech-gadgets to Ian Fleming, relying more on integrity and honor than reflexive aim and brute force (which I am also all for). The action may not get your adrenalin pumping, but the dead-on assessment of our global greed and ruthlessness drives in deeper than any bullet could.
This wasn't my fav le Carré, but I did think it a good one -- a return to a style of his books I preferred, with taught suspense and a plot that could erupt in a single simple action (or lack thereof). I enjoyed being a part of the intellectual and moral process. The author's bona fide performance as narrator, with his *humphs* and audible exasperations, gives an added exuberance to the story and the characters. I fault myself for not giving my friend the *caveat* with the recommendation--maybe he would have approached the book the wiser. I enjoyed le Carré again, and am glad I took the time to read the reviews of his fans. A good thoughtful listen in true le Carré style.
This is vintage Le Carre at its best. I read other reviews before I chose it, and I have to say that I don't understand why people found the ending disappointing. I thought it all came together perfectly
I'm amazed that this author continues to produce work to this standard. Long may it continue.
Well read and glorious use of language. The protagonist has a very difficult time trying to understand the nature of the thing(s) that he has experienced. This would be the case for any of us who cannot imagine the new dark war reality.The actual reading of the book is superb. Mr. LeCarre' has taken us to other adventures in the muddled world of the war on terror and has shown us that the people charged with its execution have become what they beheld. Sobering, to say the least.
Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Schahill
His love of words and his extraordinary use of the language
Being a veteran of the intelligence/security business, I love LeCarre's ability to show the importance of the human element in the whole seedy business. Human intelligence is ultimately ruled by the vagaries of the human heart.
I may have missed a nugget
The characters jumped to life, LeCarre played them just as he wrote them. Nobody else could have done them justice.
Full of intrigue, inuendo and invective. LeCarre crafting a barely plausible plot with a cast of familiar, worn out Whitehall types and fresh faced field agents in the best tradition of Pym. No distracting, disingenuous foreign types here, no deserts, Central American dictatorships or Multinational baddies. Just the pallid, sneaky, which side are you on Brits plying their tradecraft through England (and Wales) green and pleasant land.
If it wasn't so predictable. And if the characters were not so cartoonish. LeCarre's first few books were wonderful, complex, and unpredictable. His last few run like this: The good guys will end badly. They will end badly after making utterly stupid mistakes that the protagonists in his first few novels would have considered incompetent. In "A Delicate Truth" the good guys, all of them, achieve nothing toward their moral and praiseworthy goal, because they act like rookies, despite their years of experience and knowledge of tradecraft.
Something not by John LeCarre.
The last half of the novel.
I used to love John LeCarre. That was when his characters, both good and evil, behaved intelligently. His last 4 novels involve characters who behave like rank amateurs. In "A Delicate Truth", the main protagonist doesn't see things coming, which a 3rd grade reader would see coming a mile away. There is never any surprise anymore in his novels. The good guys are moral. They are self-defeating. They will end up very badly. The instrument of their bad ends will be telegraphed long before the end of the novel, and reader will wonder how the protagonist could not have seen it coming, when everyone else could. Sad ending for John LeCarre. He used to be able to write fiction. Now he writes cartoons.
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