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A Most Wanted Man [Mass Market Paperback]

John Le Carre
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 27 2010
A half-starved young Russian man is smuggled into Hamburg in the dead of night with an improbable amount of cash secreted in a purse around his neck. He is a devout Muslim. Or is he? He says his name is Issa.

Annabel, an idealistic young German civil rights lawyer, determines to save Issa from deportation, even if the price is her career—and her safety. Searching for clues to his mysterious past, she confronts the incongruous sixty-year-old scion of a failing British bank—and a triangle of impossible loves is born.

Meanwhile, scenting a sure kill in the “War on Terror,” the rival spies of three nations converge upon the innocents.

Thrilling, compassionate, peopled with characters the reader never wants to let go, A Most Wanted Man is a work of deep humanity with uncommon relevance to our times.

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From Publishers Weekly

When boxer Melik Oktay and his mother, both Turkish Muslims living in Hamburg, take in a street person calling himself Issa at the start of this morally complex thriller from le Carré (The Mission Song), they set off a chain of events implicating intelligence agencies from three countries. Issa, who claims to be a Muslim medical student, is, in fact, a wanted terrorist and the son of Grigori Karpov, a Red Army colonel whose considerable assets are concealed in a mysterious portfolio at a Hamburg bank. Tommy Brue, a stereotypical flawed everyman caught up in the machinations of spies and counterspies, enters the plot when Issa's attorney seeks to claim these assets. The book works best in its depiction of the rivalries besetting even post-9/11 intelligence agencies that should be allies, but none of the characters is as memorable as George Smiley or Magnus Pym. Still, even a lesser le Carré effort is far above the common run of thrillers. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

'One of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published, a humane novel which takes on the world's latest binarism and exposes troubling shades of grey.' Guardian, Hari Kunzru One of the most sophisticated fictional responses to the war on terror yet published, a humane novel which takes on the world's latest binarism and exposes troubling shades of grey. Guardian, Hari Kunzru 'A wry, warm, compassionate and ultimately deeply cynical and disillusioned story of the state of human relationships and power politics in the first decade of the 21st century.' The Times, Peter Millar A wry, warm, compassionate and ultimately deeply cynical and disillusioned story of the state of human relationships and power politics in the first decade of the 21st century. The Times, Peter Millar A MOST WANTED MAN is a first-class novel about the most pressing moral and political concerns of our time, not least the scandal of extraordinary rendition. Few writers, and certainly none with le Carre's profile, are tackling these issues with any like the same thoroughness and vigour. Telegraph, Charles Cumming 'A Most Wanted Man is a first-class novel about the most pressing moral and political concerns of our time, not least the scandal of extraordinary rendition. Few writers, and certainly none with le Carre's profile, are tackling these issues with any like the same thoroughness and vigour.' Telegraph, Charles Cumming 'Where literary novelists so often fear to tread, John le Carre has plunged deep using traditional thriller territory to examine the shadowy side of power, as his latest novel does deftly. From its intriguing opening to its pointed conclusion, this should easily maintain le Carre's high standing among his fans.' Metro, Robert Murphy Where literary novelists so often fear to tread, John le Carre has plunged deep using traditional thriller territory to examine the shadowy side of power, as his latest novel does deftly. From its intriguing opening to its pointed conclusion, this should easily maintain le Carre's high standing among his fans. Metro, Robert Murphy A gripping read Daily Mail, Stella Rimington 'A gripping read' Daily Mail, Stella Rimington 'Once again le Carre proves he's so much more than a thriller writer, but tackling very urgent themes with rare insight and clarity.' Daily Mirror, Henry Sutton Once again le Carre proves he's so much more than a thriller writer, but tackling very urgent themes with rare insight and clarity. Daily Mirror, Henry Sutton le Carre is back on form in a cracking terror plot Daily Express, Barry Forshaw 'le Carre is back on form in a cracking terror plot' Daily Express, Barry Forshaw 'This is a cautionary tale, rich in humanity, from a master storyteller back at the peak of his powers.' The Glasgow Herald, Allan Laing This is a cautionary tale, rich in humanity, from a master storyteller back at the peak of his powers. The Glasgow Herald, Allan Laing The spy novel is well suited to treating larger themes of paranoia, perfidy and loss of innocence, and here A MOST WANTED MAN is particularly successful. Hamburg, beneath the prosperous surface, is a cauldron of suspicion and betrayal... The state itself is a malevolent parent, betraying its children's trust for dark reasons only dimly understood... the drawing of the humane and intelligent Annabel and the decent and honourable Brue into a world of political brutalism, blackmail and lies moves John le Carre's novel out of the playground of the adventure story and into the grown-up realm of tragedy. Times Literary Supplement, T.O. Treadwell 'The spy novel is well suited to treating larger themes of paranoia, perfidy and loss of innocence, and here A Most Wanted Man is particularly successful. Hamburg, beneath the prosperous surface, is a cauldron of suspicion and betrayal... The state itself is a malevolent parent, betraying its children's trust for dark reasons only dimly understood... the drawing of the humane and intelligent Annabel and the decent and honourable Brue into a world of political brutalism, blackmail and lies moves John le Carre's novel out of the playground of the adventure story and into the grown-up realm of tragedy.' Times Literary Supplement, T.O. Treadwell 'John le Carre's powerful new novel proves that his narrative power and abiding humanity remain intact.' Sunday Times Culture, Stephen Amidon John le Carre's powerful new novel proves that his narrative power and abiding humanity remain intact. Sunday Times Culture, Stephen Amidon A MOST WANTED MAN is le Carre's 21st book, and another winner. This is a book about political and private corruption, and its plot revolves around the most ferociously debated policies in terror-frightened Europe. le Carre handles his material with a rare lightness of touch that's absent from most contemporary portraits of counter-terrorism: This is black, brilliant, hypnotic stuff and yet another reason to count le Carre among this country's very finest contemporary writers. Unhesitatingly recommended. Independent on Sunday, Tim Martin 'A Most Wanted Man is le Carre's 21st book, and another winner. This is a book about political and private corruption, and its plot revolves around the most ferociously debated policies in terror-frightened Europe. le Carre handles his material with a rare lightness of touch that's absent from most contemporary portraits of counter-terrorism: This is black, brilliant, hypnotic stuff and yet another reason to count le Carre among this country's very finest contemporary writers. Unhesitatingly recommended.' Independent on Sunday, Tim Martin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I thought that this was the best spy novel about the War on Terror that I've read by quite a large margin. Don't miss this book!

Only John Le Carré could take us to delicately into the middle of the War on Terror to show, not tell, what's wrong with the approach. In the process, he reveals how the ego of power overwhelms the scruples of even the most moral, those who hope to improve, and people who just want to keep promises. At the same time, he displays the problems that occur when many different spy and police agencies try to work together. Regardless of your political and ethical views, this story will shake you to the soles of your feet.

A most wanted man makes his early appearance as a quiet, ill-looking beggar-like person who can't be driven off. Even to a Muslim family in Hamburg, Germany, this newcomer seems pretty odd. When they see the seeming beggar a little more closely, they are shocked and want to help. Others have the same reaction, beginning with the lawyer, Annabel Richter, who is summoned to help a most wanted man "regularize" his situation. That contact soon draws in a Scottish banker, Tommy Brue, who isn't too happy with his life.

But there are larger interests at stake, and those interests all have different plans for the most wanted man, a man with secrets and with a moral position he wants to assert. Is there forgiveness in the world? Will past wrongs be considered?

We only hear dialogue from the most wanted man and what others have to say about him. But from those sources, we gain insights into someone whose life is much different from our own. It's a challenging task of character development, but it works well in Le Carré's masterful hands.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wretched April 17 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Once again le Carre cranks out a barely intelligible novel with a plodding plotline, hateful characters and no real ability to write a story. Yes, yes, we all know le Carre's MO is to make 2/3 of the book nonsense and try to tie everything together in the last few pages. In this case he didn't do it. The principal story is not brought forward until the 80% way thru mark and at that point the main character has been reduced to a bit player who is barely mentioned again. le Carre thinks that throwing in over 25 new characters in the last 6 chapters is essential to the story, but it just leads to confusion and a complete failure of the climax of the novel. Unless you are stuck for something to start a fire with I would suggest that you avoid this POS at all costs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fumbling and overblown Jan. 30 2010
By Lynn
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The characters were wooden, unlikable and unbelievable. Some were introduced, developed over the span of a chapter or two, and then disappeared never to be heard from again. I am very reluctant to give up on a book after starting it, no matter how much of a chore it starts to be, so I plodded through pages of long-winded speeches and unlikely love affairs hoping that it would build into something worthwhile. I finally gave up around page 340. After flipping ahead to the last few pages, I'm glad I didn't invest any more time into this airbag of a novel. I had high hopes for this book because I thoroughly enjoyed Mission Song, but I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too convoluted May 14 2009
By Bernie Koenig TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Natural Law, Science, and the Social Construction of Reality

I approached this book with great expectations. I was somewhat disappointed.
I agree with the first reviewer with regard to the theme: The way the so-called war on terror is being fought is completely wrong headed. I will assume that the book portrays the spy scene with some accuracy. We see how bad assumptions and egos rule over hard evidence and reason. So on this front the book does succeed.

Where I felt it failed was as a dramatic novel. I knew that the book would end with a mess up and that the real issues would not be dealt with by the spies. So the ending came with little surprise. Even the appearance of a new player at the end did not come as a surprise.

But I felt all too often I was reading an essay and not a novel and when that happened I started to skim, and then I had to go back and get what I missed.

So, for me, the style somewhat betrayed the substance.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I thought that this was the best spy novel about the War on Terror that I've read by quite a large margin. Don't miss this book!

Only John Le Carré could take us to delicately into the middle of the War on Terror to show, not tell, what's wrong with the approach. In the process, he reveals how the ego of power overwhelms the scruples of even the most moral, those who hope to improve, and people who just want to keep promises. At the same time, he displays the problems that occur when many different spy and police agencies try to work together. Regardless of your political and ethical views, this story will shake you to the soles of your feet.

A most wanted man makes his early appearance as a quiet, ill-looking beggar-like person who can't be driven off. Even to a Muslim family in Hamburg, Germany, this newcomer seems pretty odd. When they see the seeming beggar a little more closely, they are shocked and want to help. Others have the same reaction, beginning with the lawyer, Annabel Richter, who is summoned to help a most wanted man "regularize" his situation. That contact soon draws in a Scottish banker, Tommy Brue, who isn't too happy with his life.

But there are larger interests at stake, and those interests all have different plans for the most wanted man, a man with secrets and with a moral position he wants to assert. Is there forgiveness in the world? Will past wrongs be considered?

We only hear dialogue from the most wanted man and what others have to say about him. But from those sources, we gain insights into someone whose life is much different from our own. It's a challenging task of character development, but it works well in Le Carré's masterful hands.
Read more ›
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