A Most Wanted Man
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A Most Wanted Man

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  4,818 ratings  ·  706 reviews
A half-starved young Russian man in a long black overcoat is smuggled into Hamburg at dead of night. He has an improbable amount of cash secreted in a purse around his neck. He is a devout Muslim. Or is he? He says his name is Issa.

Annabel, an idealistic young German civil rights lawyer, determines to save Issa from deportation. Soon her client's survival becomes more impo...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published September 23rd 2008 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 2008)
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I feel like John le Carre is thought of as the grand old man of spy fiction. But his books really aren't what I tend to think of when I think of spy novels--they're always about world-weary bureaucrats doing grubby things that they know better than to be doing, about sad beat-up men whose best efforts generally just bring them, and everyone around them, more sadness. No high-tech gadgets or thrilling derring-do here--just an unhappy story with an unhappy ending. But gorgeously written.
I still haven't figured out what it is that makes me like John le Carre's works. I mean, he's the only one among my favourite authors whose books are more than often overflowing with excruciating & tireless amount of detail & the writing verging on being boring & tedious at times. And yet, when I get to the end of it, it all seems worth the effort. (Okay, maybe not The Russia House. I didn't like that one very much.)

And then Le Carre surprises me by something like 'A Most Wanted Man'...more
Jun 12, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Western spies, disillusioned bankers and civil rights lawyers
John le Carré at his best is an intricate plotter and storyteller who depicts the spy game as you never see it in Hollywood (well, except when Hollywood is making adaptations of John le Carré novels) — gritty and sleazy and all sharp but blurry edges, full of generally unpleasant people who are rarely acting out of high falutin' morality. At his worst, he's a cranky old man who's angry at the world, which is what you seem to get in his later novels. Which is not to say he's any less of a writer,...more

Well , okay . This is not the best of Le Carre's book . Agreed . Bachman is not Smiley . Agreed . The world behind Iron Curtain and Cold War politics is quite a different story than the danger in which world landed after September 11 . Agreed again.

But picture created by the old master of the espionage genre is still convincing , reality bleak and both idealists and disillusioned betrayed once again.

2.5 stars
The wanted man at the center of LeCarre's latest becomes a deeper mystery, even as more is revealed at every turn of the plot. Set in Germany, the book pulls in Russia, Chechnya and Turkey in its opening chapters. The storyline moves from international banking to Islamist intrigue. As the multi-national cast of characters struggle to make sense of the political twists and turns, none gets a full story of what is happening, and the key characters' motivations are a complex blend of each one's ind...more
Erik Simon
Superb, if your'e into espionage, and if you are, you probably already know that no one does it better than Le Carre, except maybe Graham Greene when he aimed his pen in that direction. This book is a great yarn about the spooks in the newest incarnation of espionage, the "war on terror." The quotation marks were intended.
A post-9/11 Hamburg spy novel filled with all the key post-9/11 le Carré signposts: bureaucratic turf wars, moral ambiguities, innocents caught in the web of a 'war on terror', reckless acts, money, and a general loss of innocence. le Carré, with this novel, is really starting to not pull his punches with the West.

There are two broad phases of le Carré's spy novels. There are his early, cold war spy novels and his later, post-cold war spy novels. 'A Most Wanted Man' is obviously part of the lat...more
A quandry here: the first two thirds of this is dull set-up and exposition stuff that doesn't manage to get the narrative flowing. A vaguely interesting counter-terrorism network is documented and arrayed against a not-very interesting suspect and his associates.

What keeps you in the book is that this isn't someone's early, earnest attempt at a suspense novel; this is a late work, from master John le Carré, who certainly knows his way around the chessboard. So there must be something to it all,...more
Never having read anything by le Carré before, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew of his legacy, and I had seen The Constant Gardener (a film I quite enjoyed, though that was partly because of the gorgeous cinematography), but that was about it. So it was on the recommendation of an interesting review in the NY Times a month or so ago that I picked this book up.

I'm glad I did. A Most Wanted Man is a very striking novel about people trying to live their lives in a world that was changed after t...more
Eno Sarris
I like LeCarre (Spy Who Came in from the Cold is great), and this one is centered in one of my hometowns, Hamburg. What's great about this book is LeCarre's unique analysis of post-9/11 spying, and all the red tape and International finagling that is going on. What's also good about this book, though, is that the characters are interesting and believable, and not just there to advance the plot.
Stephen Clynes
This novel has 416 pages and was written in 2008 and published in paperback in 2009. It is a realistic tale about the international war on terror. John le Carre's writing style is very polished and uses a very large vocabulary. This story develops at a good pace with a well developed plot. You may think that Islam and the war on terror are difficult subjects to write a novel about but John le Carre has done such good research that the realities of this story read like a dream. John writes with s...more
A Most Wanted Man is the most demanding of John le Carré’s spy stories so far, maybe too demanding. I read fiction for relaxation, and this is not a relaxing read where, after being fed a bread crumb trail of clues, all is revealed in the last chapter.

There are the predictable stereotypical characters of a political spy novel: the Birkenstock-wearing liberal German woman lawyer; the lascivious middle-aged British banker with a disreputable father; and the usual assortment of thugs and bureaucrat...more
Will Byrnes
A young Muslim man or uncertain origin, scarred from extensive torture, finds his way into Hamburg and inquires into a large account, set up by his father, held in a private bank. A middle-aged banker reawakens to the existence of certain “special” accounts set up during the cold war by people of questionable repute stowing ill-gotten money. An idealistic young lawyer tries to see that her client, the Muslim, is able to fulfill his financial desires. Le Carre walks us through the details of how...more
I've had mixed feelings about Le Carre since The Russia House (1989). However, as a back cover blurb states, this is "a first-class novel about the most pressing moral and political concerns of our time." No argument here. There are three main characters -- a beautiful female lawyer, a worn-out expat private banker, and a scruffy street smart spy -- but no real protagonist as the real center of the novel is the system. In retrospect, the ending seemed preordained, but all credit to Le Carre for...more
A Most Wanted Man continues Le Carres exploration of the complex, often painful world of the post soviet intelligence community. Following the journey of a young man named Issa as he pursues his patrimony in Germany and unravels the lives of everyone involved in the process, A Most Wanted Man is as much a story of delayed judgment and unreserved conclusions as it is a spy novel. For those who have sinned there is no escape, not even in death. Secrets will be revealed, stories told, and the full...more
Tim Pendry
John Le Carre defined the Cold War thriller but he has since become a writer of liberal-minded fictional critiques of the cynical and confused world of post-Soviet security. They are worthy but not classics - the heart is on the sleeve, we are supposed to be outraged and that is about that.

This story is no exception but its precise subject matter would give the game away and that is not something that you do with thrillers. Suffice it to say that we are talking about the war on terror ...

There h...more
I hesitate about putting this on my better-written-than-Harry-Potter shelf. It is and it isn't.

Poor le Carre. He needed a new day job after the Cold War made his old one irrelevant. The stuff he's churned out since is hopeless. He doesn't have a clue how to understand anybody except Cold War spies.

I bought this for 3 francs and I read about that much worth of it. Moving on now.
Marie-Jo Fortis
I had seen years ago adaptations of Le Carré's novels on PBS. I remember I was not too familiar with the English language then, being a young immigrant from France. To the young girl that I was, a spy movie was a James Bond movie. Fast paced, humorous. And what did I get instead? A Balzac of sorts examining the mechanisms of the undercover world. I didn't expect the slowness, the introspection. The subtlety. And subtlety is tough when you're none too familiar with a language, as I mentioned abov...more
This isn't the Le Carre of the Smiley novels. Here he deals with the war on terror and I think he is missing the cold war because it goesn't really work.
The main character Issa, is a Chechen Muslim (supposedly) smuggled into Germany. He is in contact with a lawyer Annabel (young, attractive and left leaning, of course) Issa has business with Tommy Brue, a British, 60 year old banker whose has money put aside for Issa (long story). Floating around theses three are a couple of Turkish muslims, wh...more
Another fairly low-key effort by Le Carre. By this I mean that, while enjoyable at the level of character and style, and to a lesser extent plotting, the novel didn’t deal with major themes or ideas. It was more just a small study of the effect of the so-called war on terror on the lives of some fairly innocent players.

The setting was entirely in Hamburg. Not only is this a city I’m totally unfamiliar with and have no particular affinity for, but it also says a lot when a Le Carre novel can be c...more
This is not vintage Le Carre, not that we are likely to see vintage Le Carre again, with the author approaching 80. My standard for judging him is "The Honourable Schoolboy" which along with the rest of the trilogy constitute the finest spy novels I have ever read.
It seems he ran out of material once the Russians left the stage. Either that or the characters are simply not as compelling because he is no longer writing about "what he knows." The center of this stage is the aging Tommy Brue, not m...more
John Le Carre’s Smiley novels are unquestionably masterpieces. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union history pulled the carpet away from beneath him; since then he seems to have lost his relevance and is in danger of producing pastiches of himself.

There’s nothing new about A Most Wanted Man. Though it’s subject is ostensibly the war on terror, the plot is familiar Le Carre territory: inter-service rivalry, complicated financial transactions, the impossibility of old-fashioned values in...more
After enjoying "The Mission Song" and "The Constant Gardener," two very fine novels that have helped make John Le Carre even more relevant as a writer of espionage and institutional morality in the post-Cold War world, I found it hard not to be a bit disappointed in "A Most Wanted Man." All the elements of success are here: Le Carre's pitch-perfect dialogue, his sharply rendered characters, and his remarkable ability to make the headiest of topics digestible to a popular audience. "A Most Wanted...more
Chilling and excellent. More of a thriller than The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but still focused on what's happening in the characters' heads and conversations. Yet again, the machinations of bureaucrats loom large in the success or failure of our heroes, but the motivations have changed post-9/11. Perhaps the best part of the book is that one never knows what is true and what is hypothesis, pointing out the crux of the problem in today's "intelligence." How can one make accurate, appropriat...more
Zakariah Johnson
This is the most insightful book I've read on the War on Terror since Jess Walter's The Zero. Though entirely different in tone and very up-to-date, A Most Wanted Man nonetheless also reminded me of Le Carré's The Looking Glass War in its skewering of intelligence services' inability to see what is there rather than what they want to see. In this case, the Rorschach test is an illegal immigrant on the run in Germany who may or may not be an Islamist terrorist, and, more importantly to various in...more
One of the best spy novels I've ever read. LeCarre writes with an exquisite economy; there is not a wasted passage. Though the author is intimate with the spy game and has done much research for this book the reader is never oppressed with pages of research as in so many other books by so many other authors for which much research was done. Every sentence moves the story along and the art with which the author makes the reader think is brilliant.
This is a timely story of post 9/11 frantic terror...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in August 2009.

Issa is, or claims to be, many contradictory people. A beggar sleeping on the Hamburg streets with thousands of euros in the purse around his neck. A Chechen imprisoned and tortured by the Russians, but with a KGB officer father. A devout Muslim, who doesn't seem to know the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite, or how to show proper reverence to a copy of the Koran. Son of an important (if shady) customer of a small bank in Hamburg to make con...more
There is a reason Le Carre is called the master of the spy novel. Even with the changing complexities of the international scene, his finger is firmly on the pulse of the intelligence community and the new challenges they face. In this novel, he highlights not only the increasingly complex problem of sorting out the terrorists from the merely devout Islamic community but also the challenges faced when competing spy agencies from several friendly countries become involved in a case. Le Carre hand...more
We are back in familiar le Carre country. The author all but addresses the reader directly, telling us the thoughts, feelings and fears of the main characters from a dispassionate third person POV. As in the best of his spy fiction--the Karla trilogy comes to mind--a master spy sets the scene for his subordinates (and us) with ultra-detailed and hyper-articulate monologs that are full of the technical details of espionage while taking showing a combination of contempt for and suspicion of his su...more
Le Carre made his name writing Cold War spy novels, but in the 90s, it seemed his field of expertise had dried up, relegating all of his stories to corporate espionage – a broad field but not as gut-wrenchingly life-or-death as international intelligence work. Then radical Muslim fundamentalists stepped onto the world scene, saving thousands of government spy jobs and providing new fertile ground for fictional espionage.

However, this new world is murky. Who is good? Who is bad? How bad are they...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 forty years where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.
More about John le Carré...
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy The Spy Who Came In from the Cold Smiley's People The Russia House The Constant Gardener

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