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Book Review: 'A Delicate Truth' by John le Carre

By Edited Aug 5, 2016 0 0

David John Moore Cornwell, who wrote under the pen name John le Carré, is a British author. Le Carre earned a name as a specialist in writing novels on espionage during the cold war. In writing these stories he made use of his experience as a British intelligence services officer. Le Carre  worked for  MI5 and MI6 during the fifties and sixties of the last century.

At that time the cold war was at its peak and Le Carre took to the scenario like a fish to water. He was on sure ground and wrote some lovely spy novels that established him as a master of espionage novels. Books like the ‘The Spy who came in from the Cold’ and ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy’ were trend setters and John le Carre sold millions of books.

The end of the cold war took away a scenario which had brought out the best of Le Carre. The master spy writer now decided to shift gears. He started writing on international intrigue and terrorism, but many felt that spark that ignited his novels of the cold war was just not there.

His book ‘A Delicate Truth’ is Carre’s attempt to break away from his pet theme of spying and intrigue during the cold war. He has in this book turned to counter terrorism, Jihad and international intrigue. The story concerns a plot to capture a high value target a Jihadi arms supplier in Gibraltar. The operation code named ‘Operation Wild Life’ is a secret affair hatched by an over ambitious foreign office official along with a private contractor and a CIA official.  So secret is the project that even the minister’s personal secretary is unaware about it.

The operation is botched and a cover up done. Le Carre now shifts the scene to 3 years later. A young man sets to unravel the murky truth of Operation Wild Life. The action shifts from Gibralter to London and the reader is a little unsure as to the period Carre is referring to. The man who is to unravel the mystery is Tobby Bell, who has to compare notes with an 81 year old aging diplomat.  Perhaps Le Carre is reminded of his own days in MI5 as a British intelligence officer in this book.

The story at places appears disjointed. Seen simply as a novel of modern terrorism it’s passable, but when one compares it with the master spy novels of the earlier times, somehow the novel appears a little flat.

 Carre seems unsure about himself and his attempt to write a thriller on modern intrigue and the world of terror looks like a master doing a slip shod work. The novel picks up speed in the last part when Le Carre brings out the battle between conscience and duty.  The novel was published in 2008 and is a far cry from the spy books by the master written earlier..

Carre is now 81 and still active. He was recently ranked 22nd by the Times in its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Carre has many other awards and many of his books have been filmed by Hollywood. His name will always be associated with the master thrillers of the cold war.

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