A Most Wanted Man

I loved John Le Carre's Cold War thrillers, but have been less than convinced by many of his more recent books. They've often been rather too polemical for my taste, and at times have verged a little on the hysterical. However this was more of a return to form.

A British banker and German human rights lawyer are drawn together when the lawyer's client, a young Chechen refugee, turns up in Hamburg requesting his birthright. It turns out that he is the son of a Chechen woman raped by a Soviet-era Russian soldier, who had left large funds in a British overseas bank account. Both the British and German secret services have shared interests, then the CIA also become involved as they are convinced on very tenuous evidence that the young man is a terrorist. The novel is a searing expose of the intelligence, or lack-of-it, in a post-911 world, and how seemingly innocent actions can be interpreted quite differently. However also at the heart of this novel is the fact that at least one of the characters is probably not as innocent as he claims or appears to be, demonstrating how difficult the work of the intelligence services are, in a world in which there are no clear boundaries.

It's not Le Carre's best novel by any means, but I think it is rather better than many of his other non-Cold War novels.


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