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3.7 out of 5 stars
Our Kind of Traitor
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 25, 2010
This novel could easily have been entitled 'The Money Launderer Who Tried to Come in Out of the Cold.' It is the story of Dima, a Russian gangster, the Mickey Cohen of the Russian Mafia, who launders all the billions amassed in illegal activities. He makes contact with a visiting English couple on holiday in Antigua and leads them to contact British intelligence in an effort to defect with his extended family, exposing his erstwhile cohorts, as well as British politicians and notables.

The plot evolves around plans to extract Dima et al by a few intelligence operatives who not only have to free the Russians, but fight their own organization's superiors. The characterizations of each of the principals is outstanding, with the foibles, strengths and weaknesses of each displayed to the utmost. That's more than can be said for the various subjects under study: money laundering, banking, the Mumbai stock market and other supposed contemporary themes intended to replace the author's past dependence on the Cold War and its brand of spies.

Despite his reputation for research and detail, le Carre treats these essential topics in summary form, rather than in the depth one would expect from the list of experts he consulted. For instance, Dima gets a telephone call telling him to 'sell Mumbai,' only a while later to be informed to buy it back. For this, one has to consult a pro? And not even mention inside information. As for Dima's specialty, money laundering, there is virtually no hard description, just sort of a lackadaisical recounting of common knowledge. Despite this criticism, the author has written an entertaining tale, and it is recommended.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 31, 2011
The focus of espionage since the days of the Cold War has largely turned toward the West's obsession with terrorism minus a reflection of the underlying causes. A novel that exposes corruption in the financial industry is a nice change of pace. Perry and Gail, an attractive British couple meet Dima, Russian oligarch on vacation in the Caribbean. Dima sees his days whose laundering money for the rich and powerful of today's Russia and seeks the help of Gail and Perry to gain contact with the British secret service. He will trade names and account numbers for the safety of life in Britain for he and his family. Through his contacts at the university where he's employed Perry meets Hector Meredith who investigates Dima's claims and then begins the process of negotiation with his superiors in the British government. Unfortunately, for Hector, Perry and Dima, nobody wants his story made public least of all the British government. Mr. Carre provides interesting insights into a spy service fighting the criminal elements of the Russian political elite while coping with a pragmatic government bureaucracy aimed at advancing political objectives with little or no concern about the moral imperative.
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on December 2, 2010
I think Le Carre is saying in this novel it's possible despite being intelligent and sensitive and maybe even because of being intelligent and sensitive to get it all wrong. Hemingway had a character say something like 'little boys always know what to do'. I think there is a similar theme in 'Our Kind of Traitor'. This is yet another examination of the moral complexity of international politics and the dubious motives of the bureaucracies that effect national policy.
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on November 15, 2011
I've been somewhat dissatisfied with Le Carre's recent novels that seem to be heavily slanted towards either African intrigue or thinly veiled commentary on the War on Terror.

I'd call this novel a bit of a return to form, the story of a couple of amateur spooks trying to smuggle a big time Russian money-launderer into the West. I'm not sure if I'd consider Le Carre more ambitious or less ambitious for sticking to his strengths on this novel, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.
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