This is Le Carre’s 26th and final novel; he died on 2020-12-12. The story is a reflection on the disillusionment of spies in a fragmented intelligence service. As always, the prose is elegant: “the Avon clan .. was united, not in the secrets they shared, but in the secrets they kept from one another”. Overall, an insightful glimpse into the lonely, secret world of spies by a masterful author.
Ms. Atkinson has written an attractive spy thriller and mystery, set in 1940 and 1951. Given Atkinson’s past books, then it is no surprise that the story unfolds in a non-linear format. Juliet is recruited to MI5, and the resulting story is very English with regular tea providing comfort and solace to characters named Peregrine and Prendergast. Much like George Smiley in the legendary Le Carre novels, people in Atkinson’s story appear normal and ordinary, but nothing will be as it seems. This is a very entertaining book with some well-timed plot twists.
Reading mystery/thrillers is a guilty pleasure; for me, plot is less important than context. Two factors distinguish Le Carre’s novels. First, the writing is much better than most mystery writers. Here is a description of Ireland: “The day had been sullen and damp, an evening that began at breakfast”. And second, Le Carre’s plots are sublime in their complexity. In this novel, someone infiltrates a drug/arms dealer’s entourage so lots of danger and suspicion; the complementary plot of political intrigue for the spymasters is wonderfully suspenseful (really, who are the good guys and who are the villains). This is a very entertaining book which was made into a TV mini-series a few years ago.