John le CARRE Single & Single

ISBN 13: 9780670884711

Single & Single

 
9780670884711: Single & Single

A lawyer from the London finance house of Single & Single is shot dead on a Turkish hillside by people with whom he thought he was in business. A children's magician in the English countryside is asked by his bank to explain the unsolicited arrival of more than five million pounds sterling in his young daughter's modest trust. A freighter bound for Liverpool is boarded by Russian coast guards in the Black Sea. The celebrated London merchant venturer "Tiger"Single disappears into thin air.

In Single & Single the writer who both epitomizes and transcends the novel of espionage opens with a haunting set piece, then establishes a sequence of events whose connections are mysterious, complex and compelling. This is a story of corrupt liaisons between criminal elements in the new Russian states and the world of legitimate finance in the West. Le Carré's finest novel in years, it is also an intimate portrait of two families: one Russian, the other English; one trading illicit goods, the other laundering the profits; one betrayed by a son-in-law, the other betrayed, and redeemed, by a son.

This is territory le Carré knows better than anyone. Masterful and prescient, he is writing at the height of his creative powers, and Oliver Single, the central protagonist, is one of his most fascinating characters.

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Review:

On a Turkish hillside, ex-Communist mobsters shatter the skull of a corrupt English lawyer. In a sleepy English village, the authorities ask a lonely children's magician how come £5,000,030 sterling just got anonymously deposited in his baby daughter's bank account. With machine-like logic and soulful literary magic, John le Carré links these two events in Single & Single, a stay-up-all-night thriller.

The magician is Oliver Single, the tormented son of Tiger Single, a rogue banker the Financial Times calls "the knight errant of Gorbachev's New East." In fact, Tiger is sinking his fangs into that crucial one-tenth of world trade free of pesky regulations--illegal drugs--and secretly selling donated disaster-relief blood. Mum's the word in Tiger's mob: as the lawyer's executioner notes, "Is not convenient to hear that American capitalists are bleeding poor nations literally."

Oliver comes in from the cold to help spymaster Brock track Tiger down. That £30 sterling signified Judas's silver, but Oliver yearns to save Tiger's life, too. Le Carré wizardly juggles dozens of characters in a zigzag, globetrotting plot. You-are-there realism, narrative drive, pitch-perfect dialog--why can't movies be this good? Like lightning, le Carré's metaphors both dazzle and blazingly illuminate the world.

Ex-spy le Carré was there when the Berlin Wall went up, and his spy craft is legendarily realistic. His female spy/love interest is less so--the opposite of a femme fatale, she might be termed a "deus sex machina." But the book's crucial father-son relationship is quite real, because, like the irresistible villain of A Perfect Spy, Tiger is based on le Carré's own con-man dad. The cold war is over, but le Carré is hot. And he will endure. --Tim Appelo

About the Author:

John le Carre was born in 1931. He attended the universities of Bern and Oxford and later taught at Eton. He spent five years in the British Foreign Service.

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