Set in the run up to and during WW1, this is part espionage story and part family saga. The family being the Railtons who are involved in the developmSet in the run up to and during WW1, this is part espionage story and part family saga. The family being the Railtons who are involved in the development of Britain's secret services.
It intertwines fiction with real events, this is sometimes cleverly done but at others, if you know a bit about key WW1 moments, you'll have alarm bells ringing in your head about particular plot lines way ahead of time.
There's a lot of setting up at the start which means the book does seem to drag for a while before it gets into its stride.
The biggest problem I had though is that there are a lot of characters and a lot of Railtons and the latter have a habit of marrying and having children so it can be hard to keep track of who's who. You could really do with plotting a family tree as you read.
There's also the odd historical howler - the LMS railway hadn't been formed in 1918 for example.
Finally it seems to have a sort of sprint finish. Having dragged its way to 1917 it deals with the last two years of the war and a short hop to the 1930s to set things up for a sequel in just three chapters.
You'll find a fair bit to like here but as a reader you need to be prepared to work at it. ...more
MI5 officer Liz Carlyle is transferred to Belfast which, in the era of power sharing, should be a relatively uneventful posting. However, dissident teMI5 officer Liz Carlyle is transferred to Belfast which, in the era of power sharing, should be a relatively uneventful posting. However, dissident terrorist groups threaten to disrupt the peace and Liz is soon involved in uncovering a deadly plot.
You'd expect an ex-head of MI5 to know her stuff in this field and Rimington's description of spycraft is impeccable. The book feels a little slow at the start though as it fills in a lot of backstory. The pace picks up in the middle but the ending seems a little too easily resolved. There's also a romantic interest that seemed rather tacked on.
This is the first time I've read one of Stella Rimington's novels and it's a decent enough thriller but lacks the 'wow factor' needed to make it stand out....more
Nobody writes disaffected middle-aged spies quite as well as Len Deighton and Bernard Samson is one of his most interesting creations. He has more depNobody writes disaffected middle-aged spies quite as well as Len Deighton and Bernard Samson is one of his most interesting creations. He has more depth than the nameless protagonist of The IPCRESS File and its sequels but there's still that edge of laconic humour.
This isn't an all-guns-blazing action novel. The tension builds gradually and by about two-thirds of the way through you have a pretty good idea of where it's going to end up. Despite the slow burning approach, however, it keeps you hooked right to the end. ...more
I've been a fan of leCarré for a long time though I felt that he lost his way for a while following the end of the cold war. Recent novels have seen aI've been a fan of leCarré for a long time though I felt that he lost his way for a while following the end of the cold war. Recent novels have seen a return to form mainly thanks to his disquiet with British government - and in particular New Labour - involvement in the "war on terror".
In A Delicate Truth you don't just have disquiet, you have a book that positively seethes with anger. The pace is pitch perfect as it explores the powerlessness of individuals when faced with the machinery of the state.
Always the master of portraying a certain type of urbane, if slightly ineffectual, Englishman, leCarré's depiction of other characters here, the loyal ex-soldier, the ambitious minister and the smooth private security contractor is also exquisitely judged. He moves the action smoothly between the corridors of power, the Cornish countryside and suburban Wales, builing to a climax that has the power to shock even though you've been half expecting it.
This is far more than just a thriller, it's a sometimes uncomfortable commentary on early 21st century life, it's also a brilliant piece of literature. In a hundred years time this will be ranked alongside the classics....more
Ian 'Boysie' Oakes is a hired assassin for a shady branch of the British secret service. The first few pages read like a catalogue of sixties brands.Ian 'Boysie' Oakes is a hired assassin for a shady branch of the British secret service. The first few pages read like a catalogue of sixties brands. So far so sub-Bond spy thriller.
However, a plot twist around half way through turns this from forgettable pulp to a really quite good story. Nicely written, pacey and with a dash of humour. ...more
When a British couple on holiday in Antigua encounter a Russian gangster they’re drawn into the murky world of espionage. The story unfolds through aWhen a British couple on holiday in Antigua encounter a Russian gangster they’re drawn into the murky world of espionage. The story unfolds through a series of clandestine meetings before heading off to Paris and Berne for the climax.
Having lost his way a little at the end of the cold war, le Carre has returned to form of late. At the heart of this book – as with all the best le Carre’s – there’s a great deal of anger. Anger at a corrupt establishment that frustrates the efforts of essentially honest men. This, along with the depth of the characters is the great strength here. It’s a pity that the ending feels a little arbitrary but nonetheless an enjoyable read.
For my money le Carré rather lost his way after the cold war ended, but A Most Wanted Man marks a return to form. Set among the war on terror's infiniFor my money le Carré rather lost his way after the cold war ended, but A Most Wanted Man marks a return to form. Set among the war on terror's infinite shades of grey this is classic le Carré territory. Decent people trying to do the right thing in the face of grinding state machinery, inter-agency rivalry and tense interviews where what isn't said is as important as what is. But since this is the 21st century there's also the technology of surveillance meaning that a suspect's movements and conversations can't remain private.
The book builds slowly to the final standoff, then seems to rather rush towards the finish which is slightly disappointing. Not a Tinker Tailor then, but definitely worth a read.