A Delicate Truth

A Novel
Narrated by: John le Carré
Length: 10 hrs and 31 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (700 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A latter-day Jeremiah of espionage & statecraft.

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

45 people found this helpful

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I haven't enjoyed a tale this much in many listens

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.

51 people found this helpful

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The Constant Gardener redux?

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?

12 people found this helpful

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LeCarre back to his brilliant best

Would you listen to A Delicate Truth again? Why?

I may have missed a nugget

What does John le Carre bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The characters jumped to life, LeCarre played them just as he wrote them. Nobody else could have done them justice.

Any additional comments?

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.

4 people found this helpful

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Wrestling With Right & Wrong in a Postmodern World

In order to accurately reflect the current state of global affairs, this is the novel Le Carre had to write. We live in a postmodern world where the word 'truth' itself must be deconstructed into 'my truth' or 'according to the Judeo-Christian tradition' in order to be clear as to exactly what's being discussed. Postmodernism is here to stay and with it, the moral confusion that has brought western foreign policy (almost) grinding to a halt. Le Carre doesn't flinch from this reality and he's crafted an enthralling tale that 'shows rather than tells' what happens when moral ambiguity creeps in to mess with everything we thought was right or wrong. It's not a comfortable tale and that's the point. One can't help but wonder if Le Carre misses Smiley's Circus and the simplicity of the Cold War as much as we do.There are no simple answers anymore. And yet, Smiley's legacy is seen in the courage and conscience shown by the novel's protagonists as they fight to expose and redeem evil within the system. The fact that they are fighting at all gives hope that corruption, once exposed, will ignite public passion for transparency and restraint. After finishing "A Delicate Truth" I'm not sure if Le Carre believes redemption is possible. But one thing is obvious, he does exhort those confronted with what their conscience knows is evil, to strengthen their resolve and go down swinging.

9 people found this helpful

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Like Le Carre? You'll love this one....


An espionage novel that works well outside the Cold War, cerebral but not pretentious.

9 people found this helpful

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He can't write his novels fast enough for me.....

Would you listen to A Delicate Truth again? Why?

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent

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.

3 people found this helpful

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Stunning, as always. Read by the master himself!

My mother-in-law turned me on to the works of John LeCarre more than 15 years ago, with "Smiley's People" and since that time I've read everything I could get my hands on. John LeCarre is not only a master of the spy genre, but literature itself. His prose is precise and beautiful; often times I'll find myself re-reading lines or paragraphs just to enjoy the way he phrases things so artfully. His characters and the stories they inhabit are unmatched. No punches are pulled and his works are based in a world much closer to reality than the "we're good/infallible/always heroic and justice driven" world of most fiction (and most politicians). If near-immortality is ever scientifically possible, I'm hoping LeCarre uses whatever contacts he may still maintain in the intelligence world to prolong his life (and continue writing).

3 people found this helpful

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Well done, superb story of secret wars

What did you love best about A Delicate Truth?

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.

What other book might you compare A Delicate Truth to and why?

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Schahill

What about John le Carre’s performance did you like?

His love of words and his extraordinary use of the language

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

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.

7 people found this helpful