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Single & Single

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  2,724 Ratings  ·  202 Reviews
A lawyer from the London finance house of Single & Single is shot dead on a Turkish hillside by people with whom he thought he was in business. A children's magician in the English countryside is asked by his bank to explain the unsolicited arrival of more than five million pounds sterling in his young daughter's modest trust. A freighter bound for Liverpool is boarded ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Hodder And Stoughton Ltd. (first published March 2nd 1999)
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Best Spy Novels
943 books — 1,665 voters
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Bad Beginning by Lemony SnicketGirl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy ChevalierSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Best Books of 1999
293 books — 153 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jun 29, 2013 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:

Hugh Ashton
Sep 03, 2012 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,
May 29, 2011 J. rated it liked it
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
Jan 07, 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
Paula Dembeck
Apr 16, 2017 Paula Dembeck rated it liked it
This LeCarre thriller opens with the reader dropped into the middle of a riveting scene on a hilltop in Turkey and played out to its predetermined conclusion. Alfred Winser, the chief legal counsel and board member of the finance house of Single and Single is summarily executed but not before LeCarre has taken the reader into Winser’s head as he spins through pictures from his past life and watches as a man produces a video camera and another aims a pistol in his face. From here, the reader must ...more
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
Aug 17, 2013 Helen added it
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
Mal Warwick
Sep 30, 2016 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John le Carre established his well-deserved fame in the early 1960s on the basis of the espionage fiction that reflected his career in Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Over the five decades since then, he has returned again and again to the world of spies. But to stay relevant in the years since the end of the Cold War, he has also ventured into other areas such as corporate crime, terrorism, and high-stakes finance. Single & Single, published in 1999, ...more
David Highton
Jun 14, 2017 David Highton rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this Le Carre book, a complex creation of international crime and corruption, witness protection and a secret service task force seeking to prosecute corrupt British public servants. Oliver Single is a great fictional creation of a character and his story is well served by Le Carr's usual excellent writing and by the clever structure of the book. The different initial strands do not start to form together until quarter way and then a mix of current narrative is interspersed with flashb ...more
Lucas Johnson
Feb 28, 2017 Lucas Johnson rated it really liked it
A curious tale, but not any less complex than most of the author's spy work. There are moments, even in his darker stories, when the reader erupts into a grin or laughs. Cunning is not always clever, which helps keep it from being exposed.
Sep 21, 2010 F.R. rated it liked it
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
Feb 25, 2012 Jim rated it liked it
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 29, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
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
Dec 21, 2011 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
May 14, 2014 Jarmby rated it it was ok
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
Sep 26, 2016 Isabel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed it.
Feb 02, 2016 José rated it really liked it
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
Oct 05, 2015 DGT rated it liked it
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
Lora Shouse
Feb 12, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it really liked it
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
Robert Rosenthal
Jan 22, 2012 Robert Rosenthal rated it liked it
LeCarre's Single & Single was in many ways a disappointing book. It sets up as an international thriller, opening with a fear-charged scene of a gangland execution, the motive for which we have no clue. But rather than grabbing onto this engine and riding it forward, the story then meanders into the life of its protagonist, who is neither hero nor anti-hero. We don't really know what he wants, other than some sort of reconciliation with or recognition from his jet-set, bigger-than-life fathe ...more
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
Sep 23, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Tiger Single is a fixer, he fixes finance for the underworld of gangsters and crooks giving a veneer of respectability to those businesses. He has many contacts, legal and financial and he also has a son, Oliver, whom he inducts into his business. The plot covers familiar ground in Le Carre’s novels, bankers, lawyers, spooks, and this time Customs & Excise in the form of Nat Brock.

The story moves along at a fast pace along with the said cast there are women, inevitably, many foreign national
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
David Hallard
May 25, 2013 David Hallard rated it it was amazing
The commercialisation of the former Soviet Union has been a gift to John LeCarre. His knowledge of its peoples, customs and landscapes colours a narrative with a very different feel to that of his cold war writings. A spy novel without spies (the Foreign Service version at least), 'Single and Single' continues JLC's. fictionalisation of the new territory of espionage, where the bureaucratic has been displaced by the commercial. The core plot, where the Saville Row attired emissaries of light get ...more
Jul 29, 2008 Maureen rated it really liked it
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
Oct 08, 2016 Elisabeth rated it liked it
Traduit de l'anglais par Mimi et Isabelle Perrin.
Publié en 1999

Né en 1931, l'auteur est un ex des services secrets britanniques.

thème: la corruption dans la haute finance, le blanchiment de l'argent sale.

Résumé: Débutant sur un règlement de compte, le roman se poursuit avec l'histoire attachante d'un magicien de spectacle pour enfants, sans qu'on saisisse d'abord le lien entre les deux. Les nœuds se dénouent quelque peu dans une poursuite/quête d'un coupable et d'une victime.

Récit de John LeCarr
Feb 25, 2016 Betta 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
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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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