David's Reviews > The Mission Song

The Mission Song by John le Carré
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it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, spy, thriller, africa, contemporary, colonialism, politics, british-literature, race-relations, poc-protagonist
Recommended for: zebras, British secret agents

This is one of le Carré's post-Cold War novels, and the subject is Africa. Like all of his spy thrillers, the tone is seedy, cynical, and heartbreaking, as a decent man has his idealism shattered and sees his best intentions trampled on and turned to shit.

"Salvo" is the son of a British missionary and a Congolese woman. He's grown up in England, and now he's a fully Anglocized African... or so he thinks. He makes a good living as a translator, having a talent for languages and knowing a bunch of little-spoken African languages, he's married to a pretty white journalist in a fashionable but shallow marriage in which it's hard to say who is whose trophy-spouse, and on the side, he also happens to be a contractor for British Intelligence when they need his special language talents.

Salvo gets a sudden assignment: 2 days, 3 days top, and a sizeable bonus, to attend a secret meeting of Congolese warlords. He's told this is for the benefit of British national security and also for the benefit of the Congo. They're trying to negotiate a peaceful and stable government. Instead, Salvo finds out that they're planning a coup and dividing the spoils... just business as usual in central Africa. He is sure his superiors will be shocked -- shocked! -- at these unsavory developments, and surely Her Majesty's government will want to prevent the imminent chaos and bloodshed over mineral rights.

You can probably see that this isn't going to a happy place. Le Carré's story is a scathing and cynical indictment of African and Western corruption alike. I give The Mission Song 4.5 stars, as it was a fast-paced well-plotted thriller with great characterization. I can't quite give it that last half-star though, because of the predictable ending. Indeed, I pretty much knew everything that was going to happen from the halfway point onward; Salvo was just too naive. But le Carré is becoming one of my go-tos for tasty literary snacks.

I'm going to up my ranking to 5 stars though because of David Oyelowo's reading of the audiobook. The man's voice is perfect for the role, a real pleasure to listen to, and he conveyed all the emotions throughout the story just as if you are hearing Salvo himself speak.
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Reading Progress

November 15, 2011 – Shelved
November 15, 2011 – Shelved as: audiobook
November 15, 2011 – Shelved as: spy
November 15, 2011 – Shelved as: thriller
November 15, 2011 – Shelved as: africa
December 5, 2011 – Started Reading
December 5, 2011 – Shelved as: contemporary
December 5, 2011 – Shelved as: colonialism
December 7, 2011 – Shelved as: politics
December 7, 2011 – Shelved as: british-literature
December 7, 2011 – Shelved as: race-relations
December 7, 2011 – Finished Reading
January 6, 2013 – Shelved as: poc-protagonist

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