- 20 Dec 19
Kicking Against The Pricks
This time around, and this is his twenty-fifth novel, le Carré employs a plot that revolves around an agent recently returned to London called Nat, Russian influence and Britain’s relationship with America, to stick two fingers up at Brexit – “an unmitigated clusterfuck” – and Trump – “Putin’s shithouse cleaner, a treat to the entire civilised world”. Nat has basically been retired and is farmed out to an inconsequential sub-department only to have an operation blow up in their faces.
Ed, who makes a badminton challenge at Nat’s beloved local club, becomes central to the whole affair. Is his blustering intrusion into this most English of institutions supposed to suggest something to the reader? Probably. Let's pick another le Carré target at random, Boris Johnson is described here as a "fucking Etonian narcissistic elitist without a decent conviction in his body bar his own advancement." Get off the fence, John, and tell us how you really feel.
What is Jericho? Why is Operation Rosebud cancelled? Are Nat’s superior’s corrupt? Why does Florence change her mind? What’s the connection with Agent Pitchfork? And what about Valentia, the pride of Moscow centre, who appears to be chasing a big British fish? This cleverly current caper rattles along at a fine clip, with the expected levels of intrigue and the requisite twists and turns, towards a daring and satisfying end. It is - like The Constant Gardiner, The Night Manager, The Tailor Of Panama and, of course, Tinker, Tailor, Solider Spy - the sort of thing that paperbacks - and celluloid - were invented for. I suspect le Carré – the genre's master - could knock this superb kind of stuff out in his sleep.