Our Kind of Traitor
Britain is in the depths of recession. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis.
Reviewed on 12th May 2013
This is the first John le Carré novel I have read since childhood, and it certainly exceeded my expectations based on vague memories of half-read books and from the 1980s or earlier, and the recent film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
The story follows a young British couple whose make-up or break-up holiday in Antigua is interrupted by a demand to play tennis from a suspicious Russian with a mysterious family. The couple are the main focus of the narrative and much is told from their perspective, although there is a random third point of view that appears halfway.
The style is interesting, as a lot of the story is depicted in the present tense, with sections told in past tense as some of the characters relate their adventures to others. This helps build up the tension throughout the opening chapters and introduces the reader into the story in a compelling way.
Towards the latter stages though I felt that the plot lost some of its tension and urgency and it drifts slowly towards the conclusion without sense of direction. Though the plot still felt plausible, it seemed to lose the attachment to the characters and their development had come to an end too early.
Overall though a refreshing and appealing revisit to le Carré's works that has encouraged me to seek out more of his recent output and delve back into his back catalogue.