Agent Running in the Field
Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.
Reviewed on 9th February 2020
John le Carré’s latest spy novel shows all the hallmarks of a man who, despite being 88 years old, still has an deep understanding of everything modern, and how the lives of his characters will be both different, and the same, as they were when he started writing.
The story is one of Nat, a spy approaching the end of his career, returning to the UK and finding himself in a surprisingly complex set of circumstances. There are strong hallmarks of themes that run throughout le Carré’s novels, but the book stands alone and has a number of amusing moments as well as feeling deadly serious.
The author does seem to be using the novel to also make some political points. At first I thought this was just good characterisation, and the timing of my reading the novel a coincidence, but it turns out the author was repeating the views of his characters in newspaper editorials. I’m not sure how this will go down with some of his readers.
I’ve very much got back into spy novels over the last few years, and am enjoying them much more than modern crime novels, which just seem to have become gorenographic. The ingenuity and tradecraft depicted is much more attractive to me than brutal thrillers, and le Carré easily remains the top of the game.