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Single und Single

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,297 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
John le Carré is, by a large margin, the modern era's greatest chronicler of the shadowy, morally ambiguous world of espionage. His splendid novel, Single & Single, successfully comes to grips with the rapidly changing social and political realities of a world formed in the aftermath of Soviet communism's spectacular collapse.
Hardcover, 414 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch (first published March 2nd 1999)
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Nov 15, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The monsters of our childhood do not fade away, neither are they ever wholly monstrous. But neither, in my experience, do we ever reach a plane of detachment regarding our parents, however wise and old we may become. To pretend otherwise is to cheat.
-- John le Carre


I wish I could claim credit for the catchy title/phrase: The spy who came back to the bank., but it has Mr. Moneyball written all over it.

After reviewing Our Kind of Traitor, I kept being drawn back to Single & Single, a le Carré
Splendid. To say it is his best later book is to damn it with faint praise. It is just a darn good example of what Le Carre does so well, writing about the English and the Russians. He lost his way when the Cold War lost its way. Here he is back in that world he understands and loves and it makes all the difference.

I see this book has underwhelmed many, but I fail to see why. Unreservedly recommended.

'He's a bastard' says Oliver at one point. To which the Swiss banker replies:

For nearly anybody else writing these days, this would be a slam-dunk winner. Large canvas and well-developed set of characters that shift and grow with the unspooling of the narrative. Nicely varied set of scenarios, scenery, and atmosphere.

But Le Carré has set the bar too high and when this one hits the doldrums midway, it is nearly lost. All the elaborate mechanisms that are set up in the first third of the novel kind of coast and sputter a bit in the middle section. It doesn't take on a lif
Perry Whitford
Feb 22, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's the early 1990's and the Cold War may well be over (for the time being, anyway) but John le Carre just can't leave Russia alone. And why should he? What with all those oligarchs dismantling the old apparatus of the Soviet state and untold, underhand billions to made out of oil, iron and blood.

Not metaphorical blood either. Real blood.

The House of Single is London's foremost financial company with its fingers in the new pie. Tiger Single, its founder, is determined to get his fair share of
Hugh Ashton
May 16, 2013 Hugh Ashton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To my mind, this is the finest of le Carré's post-Cold War works. His outrage against the crooked British establishment is apparent through the words and actions of his protagonist (and, one suspects, his alter ego) Nathaniel Brock.

His ear for dialogue is retained, whether it be in the mouth of the antihero of the story, Oliver Single or his super-rich crook of a father, the bent coppers and officials who serve them, the former intelligence operatives of three countries, the sleazy Swiss lawyer,
Simon Mcleish
Jan 29, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in May 2003.

Oliver Single begins a promising career in the legal department of his father's banking company, only to gradually realise that its fortunes rest on the laundering of money for organised crime. As the company's biggest partnership, with "entrepeneurs" in the disintegrating Soviet Union, takes shape, Oliver makes the fateful decision to betray his father to the authorities. This part of the story is told in flashback; the main plot of Single and Si
I love John le Carre. I really, really, really do. (Check my other reviews.) But for this book, Single & Single, my rating

As a novelist, it is your job to make your story so believable that your audience will suspend their disbelief--or invent their own explanations--in the places where the plot runs thin. Which was a problem in this book.

Like a mantra, in the last 50 pages of Single & Single, I found myself yelling at the book over and over again, "What??? This is the Russian M
Jul 08, 2011 Suzierussell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first John Le Carre novel. I usually pass them by, regarding them as boys' books - spies, murder, submarines/guns/planes and boring chase scenes. But one night I was out of books and so desperate for something to read that I scooted over the bed and grabbed the first book I saw on my husband's night stand, fully expecting it to put me to sleep with boredom.

I read half of it that night.

The first chapter is darkly funny, the second full of pathos and introduced some very sympathetic c
May 04, 2013 Pawanraj rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Starts off well.. The first chapter is super reading. A lawyer is murdered by the gang-of-"entrepreneurs" he was working for. Oliver, who is a (former) colleague of the dead lawyer gets involved. He races against time, the establishment and his own morality to try and save his father (and boss) from suffering the same fate.

The story is mostly flashback, as Oliver, has given up on his previous life as a hot-shot lawyer for the Russian "mob". He returns to it, to save the father. The story is pred
Oct 05, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, how I admire Le Carré. I never usually like to read his works too close together for fear that their characters would blend together. But maybe I mostly do this so that I can built up the craving for Le Carré's twisting tales of hardcore criminals and deep-seated espionage. Despite the abrupt conclusion, Le Carré recounts the tale of Single & Single completely on track and holds your attention around every bend. He acts as your guide, inviting you to look this way and that as the charact ...more
Mar 05, 2012 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book jumps around chronologically and the story takes its time to unfold. But you're drawn into the story. I liked it better than "Our Kind of Traitor" but it didn't grab & hold my interest like "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold."

Tiger Single is the head of Single & Single, a multinational firm that specializes in money laundering. Tiger's son Oliver is being learning the ropes in the company. The book starts off with the execution style murder of one of Single & Single's attor
Sep 25, 2010 F.R. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening chapter is brilliant. A soft, middle aged corporate lawyer, used to boardrooms and chasing secretaries, has a gun pulled on him and slowly his brain processes the situation he’s in. ‘That can’t be a gun’ he tells himself, ‘My life does not involve such things as guns and being shot’. His realisation that he is indeed about to die and his desperate attempts to try and save himself from a situation he in no way understands is frighteningly well done.

Unfortunately nothing else in this n
Jan 06, 2012 Curtis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to read some John le Carre when I was younger and had a bit of the same issue this time. I have a hard time following his storylines and it sometimes takes me out of the story. I read a lot of more complex stories, such as George R.R. Martin, Dorothy Dunnett or Guy Gavriel Kay. So I should be used to it. But there is something about le Carre that I struggle with.

That being said, I found this to be compelling at times and the lead character is an interesting sort. It does build some momen
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an intruiging novel from the start; it does not follow a clear linear narrative, leaping back and forth in time.
A corporate Lawyer is executed on a Turkish hillside for reasons he cannot comprehend. This act leads to a chain of events that eventually take the reader to Georgia, Istanbul and London's West End, where the fat cats are getting rich on newly available Russian commodities. Oliver Single is about to sample some of these riches as his father, Tiger, the biggest and most success
Feb 20, 2016 José rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caso de corrupção, tráfico e lavagem de moeda. Aventura, investigação, bons ingredientes para desenvolver e descobrir os corruptos, com sofrimento e mortes pelo meio. Gostei
Becky Motew
The George Smiley trilogy was a very hard act to follow but JLC has been trying to do it all these years.
This book is not the one to accomplish that and really, perhaps no book could.

Everyone knows the problem. We're all grateful that no one is pressing the red button in the middle of the night of course. The Cold War has gone away and thank god. But now espionage writers are forced to feature International drug rings, Russian mafia, etc. and none of that comes up anywhere near the level of LeC
Oct 05, 2015 DGT rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oliver Single, the hero of John Le Carré’s fourth post-Cold War novel, seems, if anything, more troubled by internal demons than George Smiley, though probably not Alec Leamas. He is damaged by disillusion as he is drawn into Single & Single and suffers, as do many of Le Carré’s heroes, from his public school up-bringing. Oliver generates in himself and many readers, I expect, considerable outrage and without even the ambiguous moral high ground of Western values that Le Carré occasionally d ...more
Apr 29, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the page facing the first page of the novel is a simple statement: "Human blood is a commodity. U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 1966". Perhaps William Carlos Williams would have written, in a more grim vein--"So much depends on a red commodity..." since he was a physician as well as a poet.

Blood bonds, wet work, the business of business in a post Soviet world where blood feuds once more become a fact of life. This book is about the politics of blood in many ways. That FTC statement laid the g
Mar 01, 2016 Sadie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I hadn't read any John le Carre novels before now, but I'm certainly going to be looking for them to read in the future. One would think I'd have naturally gone on to read his works after finishing my binge of Ian Fleming last year. However, if this story is any indication, le Carre is an altogether different animal from Fleming in writing style and approach to character. This was not really a "spy novel" but more of an international intrigue novel, taking into account the fortu ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Jarmby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Single and Single was a difficult read .
Le Carre writes a story here that is difficult to follow. There were too many gaps in the narrative that the reader had to deduce or conclude .
Whilst this is very much his style , Single and Single pushed the boundaries of endurability .
The main characters were unconvincing bordering on caricatures and the story they were portraying was mediocre
I was glad to finish this book
Robert Hepple
Jul 23, 2015 Robert Hepple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Single & Single is a John le Carre thriller first published in 1999. The main character is a lawyer of a finance company, who whistle-blows to the authorities when he realises the extent of the companys involvement in shady business deals. The Russian Mafia and the breakup of the Soviet Union form major parts of the story, but where the story scores best is in impressive characterisations, even if the storyline gets a little silly at times. During the first half of the book, much of the stor ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...Written in the late '90's, the book takes place in the early to mid 90's around the fall of the Soviet Union. Amongst the calls of glasnost and perestroika, is a story about a Georgian crime syndicate, corrupt Brits, family and betrayal.

“Single & Single” has a touch of a stream-of-conciousness style, that can be difficult to adjust to initially. However, as I went further into the book, I found myself appreciating the level of wit and detail that went into each character. The relationshi
Nick Baam
Jul 01, 2015 Nick Baam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very surprised by the lukewarm reviews to this book, I continue to be amazed and awed that le Carre continues to come up with these plots, and characters. Sure Oli's a bit of a variation on Jerry Westerby, but with differences, one huge: this Jerry gets the girl, and what a girl, Aggie. A new member of the IMF. (And Brock too is a smart, new member.)

And w what other writer are you guaranteed, every few pages, lines and insights such as: ‘Seduced by the gun, he had briefly imagined it was just Ho
Lavinia Exilicauda
le Carré tries hard to shroud this in a warm glow and only succeeds in burning the edges. The tryhard piecemeal revelations are amateurish and make an interesting string of events seem boring and inevitable. The protagonist is so lovesick and of such mixed motivations I thought at least some of it had to be red herrings or jokes, but it was all played confusingly straight. The blurb promises a new look at post-Soviet East-West relations and the novel itself delivers the same old look at criminal ...more
Leila Mota
Mar 14, 2015 Leila Mota rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I didn't pursue this excellent writer's career after reading 'The Little Drummer Girl', a book that I found exceptional, and I'm glad that I was attracted by a sale and an interesting description of 'Single & Single'. It took me sometime to get to a point where I could really engage with its subtleties and twists and emotions. The author weaves a complex web of characters and words to show the intricacies of an criminal investigation. You've got to have the same patience tha ...more
May 14, 2015 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first le Carre book I have read, and it didn't make me want to rush out and read more. It's sort of a spy novel, but based mostly on the financial aspect (though there are some "action" scenes). It's relatively slow-moving and never really drew me in with either the characters (who I didn't find terribly believable) or the storyline. Then it ended very abruptly, in a way that I felt rather left the reader hanging (though I realize some people like those kind of endings). Overall it w ...more
Lora Shouse
Nov 07, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s kind of hard to describe this book. It’s supposed to be some kind of espionage novel, but set in the days after the end of all-out communism in Russia, when nearly everything begins to come under the control of various organized crime groups.
We are most concerned here with the British firm of Single & Single, a big name in international finance. Apparently their main business is money laundering. And the Russian (in this case mostly Georgian) criminal organization they have become invol
Jan 13, 2015 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
I "read" this as an audiobook, which is about the only way I can get in any "reading" these days. The Audible version had a very decent narrator with a British accent that went along with the genre of the book. I also thought his interpretation of the Georgian accents was fine, too. As far as the story line of the book it started out very interesting and drew you in well, however as the story progressed I found I got lost in the flashbacks and I found it quite difficult to follow. I also did not ...more
Aug 06, 2008 Maureen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novel
For faithful readers of LeCarre, this is a book that had to be written. It is an exploration of the relationship between a father and son, closely mirroring the internal struggle LeCarre had with his own father.

The book opens with as horrifying a description of the mindset of a man about to be murdered as has ever been written. The soon-to-be murdered man is a lawyer for a British investment house. The details of his murder by Russian mobsters in Turkey raise questions with Brock, a British Cus
Anna Tan
Feb 17, 2013 Anna Tan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When a book starts off with the intriguing line This gun is not a gun, you know you're in for a rather interesting read.

Single & Single starts off with the cold-blooded murder of a British corporate lawyer in Turkey. His boss, Tiger Single, the brains behind the financial house Single and Single, goes missing. In the middle of the night, Oliver Hawthorne, a children's entertainer, is questioned about a sudden influx of cash to his daughter's trust fund.

John le Carre explores the shady worl
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
More about John le Carré...

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