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A Delicate Truth

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  10,297 ratings  ·  1,209 reviews
Gibraltar, 2008.

A counter-terror operation, codenamed Wildlife, is being mounted in Britain's most precious colony. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms-buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, and a private defence contractor who is also his close friend. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister's private secretary, Tob
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 25th 2013 by Viking
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May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
“Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, dear man. In an imperfect world, I fear it’s the best we can manage.”
― John le Carré Quoting François de La Rochefoucauld, A Delicate Truth


If for whatever reason, during the last twenty years, you've missed John le Carré's anger, and if his last 10 books were too subtle for you, and if you didn't catch le Carré's moral outrage in 'The Constant Gardner' and 'A Most Wanted Man', then you might need to skip 'A Delicate Truth'. In his newest nove
Manuel Antão
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Quite a few le Carré novels fall into that category of books to be reread every couple of years. For me it’s "The Spy Who Came in from The Cold", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Perfect Spy" (perhaps his greatest book) I never get tired of them. This one doesn't fall in that category, but it comes very close. In German one would say that le Carré is ‘wach’, i.e., he really perceives the world around him and has a deep understan
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have not read much le Carre, having decided long ago that his dialogues and conversations were too subtle and nuanced for me. I repeatedly felt as though I was supposed to have "gotten" something that I had clearly missed. Either my reading has improved, or he has become a clearer writer. I was never at a loss in this one, and I could only be amazed at his skill in setting, characterization, and plotting. His anger at the amorality of modern governments is fierce, and his depiction of bureaucr ...more
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Along with The Constant Gardener, this is my favorite of John le Carre's post-Cold War novels. Seems to me that JLC's strengths are on full display here, amounting to a fine balance of character development, physical action, and political commentary. Like The Constant Gardener, it's the story of a whistleblower (whistleblowers, actually -- there's more than one of 'em here) struggling against the powers that be. This time out, "the powers that be" cabal is made up of a handful of American neocon ...more
The worst of le Carre is a damn sight better than most thriller writers and at his best he is a great writer full stop (no need to limit him to a genre). I find him to be more polemical these days, more explicitly political (as in taking on big pharma in The Constant Gardener, for example; he's probably not wrong about the issue, but fiction shouldn't be about issues so much as about how people respond to those issues. This book is a bit like that, substituting private security companies (i.e., ...more
Jacob Overmark
"You want the truth? You can´t handle the Truth!"

Not as action- or suspense packed as some of le Carré´s novels, but nevertheless …

You may wonder what goes on behind closed doors, how unholy alliances are forged/forced.

In this case a scandal should at all cost be avoided, and there is a more than ready "facility management unit" to do this.

As in many novels from le Carré ´s hand we are circling around secrets that are laid upon you, some you have figured out by yourself, some half disclosed t
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What can I say about the Yoda of spy-masters I haven't already said? That five stars aren't nearly enough?
No spoilers here. This is the behind-the-scenes story of a small anti-terrorist black op that might or might not have happened. Problem is, its very existence - even as a plan - is so politically incorrect as to be a profound embarrassment if anyone involved decides to break silence and go public with the few facts they know. So the trendy topic of whistle-blowing is very much at issue.
I fin
Mal Warwick
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
John Le Carre's latest novel is brilliant.

On the cover of A Delicate Truth, Gibraltar looms like the vast bulk of reality weighing down on the idealism and sense of duty that preoccupy the novel’s protagonist, as they do in so many of the works of John Le Carre. Gibraltar itself does play a key role here as the site of an incident that brings together a motley cast of hapless souls: the upstanding senior officer and the bent but bumbling junior Minister he answers to; the Minister’s fast-track P
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-spy
John le Carre is probably the most literary of the great genre writers of our time. In most of his novels there usually comes a point (sometimes several times), where the elevated language, le Carre's sense of the story's moment, the ideas in play, all converge in a WOW moment of insight, wisdom conveyed, prophecy even. In le Carre's 2013 novel (the author is an amazingly prolific 82), those moments of literary high seemed to me to be missing. And yet, the author is still playing for the highest ...more
John Farebrother
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another blackly pessimistic parable by master storyteller Le Carré. The reader is let into the hidden corridors of Westminster, where parvenu politicians pursue and promote fantastic fantasies in order to advance their careers, encouraged and led up the garden path by private corporations eager to scoop up a handful of crumbs from the high table, a game in which ordinary mortals are mere disposable commodities. In one of his recurrent themes, a small group of elite soldiers on the one hand, and ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This was my first le Carre novel and while it was entertaining maybe this wasn't the best of his to start off with. The writing is great and dialogue well-done. It is the premise that didn’t really do it for me. The operation which is the catalyst for the story just didn’t seem nefarious enough or perhaps it was just not fleshed out in enough detail. I just had a hard time believing the event was of sufficient magnitude and scandal to drive the actions of all the characters. Maybe I’m just jaded ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the modern version of Le Carre’s writing in classic form.

The spycraft that he writes about is both firmly rooted in the 21st and 20th Century.

Possible spoilers and a bit of a treat for 20th Century spy novel fans......

One of the main characters has to depend on an old reel to reel tape recorder to tape a clandestine meeting in his office. And then he uses modern technology to transfer the conversation to a memory stick. And when I read about the reel to reel, Smiley’s Circus popped into
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Le Carre started out writing wonderful spy novels, and along the way became a wonderful writer who sometimes wrote about spies. When his territory of the cold war spy world came to a natural end he seemed freed to take on other moral aspects of the world, and to have become as he has aged, a waver of red flags, telling us that we our losing our power and our humanity. Notably, The Constant Gardener brought big pharma's dirty deeds into the light. And in every case he tells a gripping tale w ...more
Jon Bernstein
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a bit funny that a quote of Tim Rutten calling Le Carre "one of our great writers of moral ambiguity" is being used to promote this book. While that statement is certainly true of some of his Cold War-era novels, it doesn't really apply here - there is very little moral ambiguity in this book. The central characters have their struggles and doubts, but the plot very much revolves around their efforts to Do The Right Thing, and the bad guys are unambiguously bad. As with books like Absolute ...more
I enjoyed this book and rather forgot to make notes for my book club's discussion of it - I was too caught up in the complexities of the story.

It moves back and forth in time so that we are gradually given more information as we need it. Le Carré's anger is palpable, and the premise of his story is frighteningly believable. A supposed "rendition" of a terrorist gone wrong, and the ensuing cover-ups are bad enough. The really horrible thing, which we know to be true, is that there is no longer an
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
A Delicate Truth was good to the very last drop. This one did not have quite as many layers as most of Le Carre's novels, but the intrigue was just as palpable. I remember the first time I tackled one of this author's books and it was almost a job of work. So many characters, so many chances to get lost. Worth it? Yes, indeed. This one is much easier to follow, but still demands the reader pay attention. You will want to do that anyway, reading his writing is a pleasure.

A tip of my old-school h
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Although by comparrison the first part, chaper 1 especially, is slow and difficult to follow. This is deliberate and the events are left to be expanded upon throughout the rest of the book. Chapter 2 sets the book up nicely and from the third chapter you are hooked.
This was an interesting way to tell the story but for dramatic effect well worth it and the readers that read on are rewarded by vintage le Carre in a wonderful thriller and classic conspiracy story.
The writing is strong and clever as
Steve Greenleaf
May 08, 2013 rated it liked it

After completing the book, I read two reviews in the NYT. One by resident reviewer Michiko Kakutani, which was critical, and the other in the Sunday Book Review by fellow author Olen Steinhauer, which was much kinder. In a sense, I agreed with both. Le Carre, especially since the GWOT (Global War on Terror), has been almost obsessed with American heavy-handedness, blundering, and worse. As an American reader, I say to myself, “Really, we're not that dumb and brutish—are we?” Even recalling the w
Arun Divakar
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
What makes corporates similar to cockroaches ? I think it's that slow entrance and the gradual overpowering of the original host environment. A sort of metamorphosis that leaves the host unrecognisable. They sniff out the profitable places of the world and slowly move in and before you know it they transform it. Look around you, what is surely the most profitable organisation you can think of ? The one thing that will never go out of popularity ? I'd say it is war. As long as we humans are alive ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another solid effort by le Carre`. With the Cold War having ended he has had to shift his focus and at age 82 (when he wrote this) he has done a remarkable job in keeping up with the times, being current in his plots and delivering a scathing look at the new normal in counter-terrorism.
The book begins with a covert operation on the Rock of Gibraltar, a mission that was deemed a success despite some apparent issues prior to a raid on a jihadist. We are then seamlessly transported 3 years hence a
Doug Bradshaw
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Now 82 years old, le Carre' continues to be relevant and excellent. Unlike many espionage writers, his stories are subtle and weave believability through the outstanding accounts of the every day work of spies, home office politics and today's trend to use third party contractors and mercenaries to do some of the dirty work. This story is an up-close and personal account of an older such member of the community with very little field agent experience and a younger up-and- coming agent who is str ...more
Michael Armstrong
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've been reading John Le Carre since I was in my twenties. A new book from him is like an old friend. As the concerns of espionage have changed over the years, Le Carre has kept pace. A Delicate Truth balances on themes of extraordinary rendition and the increasing privatization of international security: the legacies of groups such as the Iraq War's notorious Blackwater.
The book starts with a delicious sardonic tone that encourages you to savour the lovely sentence construction and often made
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, nlbc, mystery
Outrage and intrigue and even more relevant now than when it came out six years ago. Unfortunately the outrage trumps the intrigue. Subtle this isn't; the two good guys have interesting foibles while the bad guys are all bad and the info dumps irritate. Page-turning action, very convincing interaction inside Whitehall, and it reads like truth, except that in our current jaded days I'm not sure the root cause would get much of a reaction even from the good guys. ...more
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: le-carre
As always, there is a lot here to like, especially in le Carré's portrayal of the lawless and deceitfully sanctimonious Blair-Bush fiasco they called their 'War On Terror'. A direct, clearheaded understanding of corporate warfare and its implications is neatly woven through every plot twist.

As we've come to expect in any le Carré story, we are plunged without warning or exposition directly into a milieu where we don't know the rules, and may not even recognize the playing field ... until the nar
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
A new John le Carre title is a great event. I bought this as soon as it was released and read it on the same day.

As always, the writing cannot be faulted. I like his knack of slipping from past to present tense, almost invisibly, to increase the tension. This is used to great effect in the first part of the book, describing a clandestine but unauthorised operation in Gibraltar.

The premise is intriguing and controversial, as in le Carre's recent novels: rampant collusion between unaccountable gov
Roman Clodia
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Who needs the state when private enterprise will do the job for us?”

This is a rightfully angry book as le Carré traces the logical extremes of capitalism: outsourcing political intelligence and British military operations to private American contractors and mercenaries. For all of his authentic exposé, however, this remains a far less subtle story than his earlier Smiley and Karla books.

The murky moralities of his early works have gone, and been replaced by a strident indignation – the division
It was my birthday on Thursday, and the thrill of the day (after buying myself a new pair of shoes & a purse that I desperately needed) was going to the library. (I did have other plans, but none of them seemed truly interesting when confronted with actually doing them.) So, I picked up the books I had on reserve, then walked over to the spy shelf -- my favorite guilty pleasure. I knew I had missed this book before, but I'd forgotten.

Long story short, beyond running out to eat some cake w/ frien
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
John le Carré is in his 80s and still writing spy thrillers that are as contemporary and up to the minute as anything else in the genre. This one, A Delicate Truth, is one of his best IMHO.

Le Carré long ago moved on from the Cold War espionage era of his classic George Smiley character to the post-9/11, counter-terrorism, civilian contractor-dominated intelligence world of today, his later novels featuring mid-level actors in Britain's foreign office and intelligence ministries. I would never sa
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are many excellent reader reviews here and most of those with a four or five star rating are worth a look so I’m not going to waste time on a duplicating detailed review.
This novel has pretty much all the hall marks of Le Carré: well written with a clear concise prose style; great characterisations; beautifully structured plot; a sub text of cynicism regarding the inhuman nature of large institutions, be they government or private; a mature personal relationship hinted at as a ray of hop
Sid Nuncius
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John le Carré doesn’t write bad books, but I don’t think this is one of his best.

A Delicate Truth is le Carré’s take on Extraordinary Rendition and the increasing involvement of private contractors in national security in the late days of the New Labour government in 2008. It deals with an operation in Gibraltar to exfiltrate a terror suspect which, it emerges later, has gone badly wrong. Much of the book is concerned with the activities and fate of two Foreign Office officials who try to act as
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The audio version is done by John le Carre and is so good 3 20 Jun 01, 2014 01:03PM  
About the end 1 34 Mar 08, 2014 08:43AM  
Audiobooks: BBC Radio Drama 31 152 Oct 10, 2013 04:00PM  
THE MASTER at work walking the razor's edge 8 42 Jul 26, 2013 01:37PM  

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

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