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Single & Single

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  1,982 ratings  ·  159 reviews
John le Carré's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international intrigue with unsurpassed skill and knowledge, and have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

A lawyer from a London finance house is shot dead on a Turkish hillside by people with whom he thought he was in business. A children's magician in the Engli
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 1st 2003 by Scribner (first published January 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Darwin8u
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 I read last year, but never actually got around to reviewing. Both Single & Single & Our Kind of Traitor are part of le Carré's banking/black-market brand of post-Soviet spy fiction. Certainly not everyone's Jam, but being a finance guy myself, I kinda dig '
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notgettingenough
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:

http://alittleteaal
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Helen
I love John le Carre. I really, really, really do. (Check my other reviews.) But for this book, Single & Single, my rating is...eh.

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
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Hugh Ashton
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,
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Simon Mcleish
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
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J.
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
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Suzierussell
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
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Pawanraj
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
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Amanda
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
Jim
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
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F.R.
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
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Curtis
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
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David
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
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Jarmby
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
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
Jack
...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
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Nick Baam
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
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Leila Mota
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
Krista
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
Peggy
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
Maureen
Aug 06, 2008 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Anna Tan
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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Robert Rosenthal
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
Steve
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
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David Hallard
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
Sundarraj Kaushik
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shari Mellin
This was my first ever John le Carre book. It's a bit complicated to get into, but the characters are fascinating, both on the "good" side and the "bad" side. Really frightening about the international drug cartels, drug use and countries and agencies that look the other way. The main character, Oliver Single, is a tour de force. I am going to go way back and read some of le Carre's earlier stuff; maybe Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Manugw
SOMEWHAT TEDIOUS
Though Mr Le Carre knows the complexities and the essence of the spy world probably more than any other author judging by his biography I think that though in Single & Single, he fully goes into these elements to make a story, he fails, unlike other spy authors, to provide ingenious twists and turns and credible suspense to make its work enticing leaving it somewhat dull. In addition, his writing style permanently changes its focus in every paragraph with places, characters a
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Michael
This is probably one of the only times I've struggled through a Le Carre novel. Le Carre's version of the Oedipus story spends a good deal of time flashing back to previous events to explain how this father and son wind up in the tangled, illegal and dangerous world of the International drug trade. However, there wasn't much here, for this reader anyway, that needs explaining. Not to say this if formulaic, but the troubled relationships of successful fathers and their naive sons isn't exactly ne ...more
Nadine D. Kwok
Well written, keeps you moving through it

The language and characters are interesting. There is mystery and a lot is left to the reader to work out which keeps you looking for clues. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. I guess one can imagine how it all goes afterward.
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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...
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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