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A Most Wanted Man

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  10,287 ratings  ·  1,123 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 ...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Scribner (first published 2008)
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Dylan Campbell I'm really digging the book so far. I'm half way through.

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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 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
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
“The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing.”
― John le Carré, A Most Wanted Man


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 o
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: thriller
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 doesn'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

Well, A Most Wanted Man 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 situation than the danger the world landed in after September 11. Agreed again.

But the picture created by the old master of an espionage genre is still convincing, reality bleak enough and both idealists and disillusioned ones betrayed once again.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jun 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: crime-fiction
Updated, having seen the movie: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpre...

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

Poor le Carré. 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.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story did not disappoint.

The Cold War may be over, but Le Carre has kept on going.

A bit of a spoiler....

The ending took me way off centre. It was something I didn’t expect.

Also, this can be a good introduction to Le Carre’s writing if you haven’t read any of his stories.
This book was well worth the time.
Mar 22, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 24, 2008 added it
Shelves: read-2008
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
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 terro
Eno Sarris
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-spies
I read this after seeing the really wonderful film adaptation. There are, of course, some differences.

I have to say, that while I enjoyed the cynical outlook and the conflicts within all the characters, I found Issa's character to be really annoying, which I guess is the point.
Stephen Clynes
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Ellis
Sep 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books you know right from the first page is not going to end well, nor will it be an enjoyable and satisfying read. Sorry, but I just don't care for John le Carre's books. It's been awhile since I read one, and my husband thought I'd like doesn't happen very often, but he was wrong, wrong, WRONG!!! I admit there were one or two places I thought I was getting to like it, but without fail, with the turn of a page I would once again want to throw it in the trash. ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The spies of three nations converge on a banker, a lawyer and a Muslim refugee, who become pawns in the War on Terror. Great character development, and lots of moral ambiguities and dilemas. Well-written and recommended.
Joni Dee
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
"A Most Wanted Man" is one of the newest Le Carré's, portraying the "new" post cold war spy novels. it is by far better than its consequent "Our Kind of Traitor" which is another fling the author had with a completely "communist-free" spy novel.

The Novel is well written as always, fluent and gripping. Takes place in Hamburg, symbolically (and later proven crucial to the turn of events) the city where the 9/11 perpetrators have found refuge right under the nose of the German intellige
Aug 16, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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-fashione
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
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 bureaucrats t
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 sweep ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Well written, but very typically depressing John le Carre. No redemption, all trust rewarded with deceit, manipulation on every side, and we are left at the end of the book stunned and sad when the master manipulators are out-manipulated. The ending reminds me very much of the end of "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" except this time le Carre is upset at the United States. No one is a good guy in any situation, really. Every person is made up of the many shades of deceptive gray, sometimes mor ...more
Matt Raubenheimer
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a lot of post-Cold War Le Carre, and the 'war on terror' has never been one of my preferred settings for a spy thriller, but nonetheless I found A Most Wanted Man to be a gripping novel, slow burning in typical Le Carre fashion and featuring a cast of captivating characters. I haven't seen the film adaptation, but I nonetheless couldn't help picturing Philip Seymour Hoffman in my mind when reading Gunther Bachmann's dialogue.
Sairam Krishnan
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simmering and smouldering its way through Hamburg, A Most Wanted Man is a masterclass in pace, suspense, and tension. Touches upon quite a lot of important debates with the story and its handling, but I felt the grip loosening just a bit in the middle of the book. I shouldn't have worried, though: The shattering climax comes at you swiftly and suddenly, and the by the time I closed the book and stood up, I knew I had been told a story I would remember.

Peace be upon you, Issa.
Karl Jorgenson
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
My love affair with LeCarre's work cooled in the eighties, chilled in the nineties, and turned bitter in this century. For random reasons, I read this one and found it pretty darn good.
LeCarre's strength is fabulous characters. They are vivid, they are complex, and they are real. They ought to be; 90 percent of any of his books is character development. Read him for the characters and you can't be disappointed.
His plotting has shifted over the decades. From The Spy Who Came in from the
Simon Mcleish
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: john-le-carre
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
Marie-Jo Fortis
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
“The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing.” 81 likes
“Yes, dear Father. But has it ever occurred to you that by controlling [your feelings] you destroy them? How many times can we say sorry before we don't feel sorry anymore?” 12 likes
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