Friday, January 23, 2009

A Master at Work

I just read another Post-9/11 novel. (Is it possible that all contemporary fiction published last year falls into that category?) I didn't purposely select a book in that genre. I was drawn to read John le Carré's latest novel A Most Wanted Man because... well, because it's John le Carré. He's the master. Nobody writes spy novels like he does - the twisting plots, the flawed heroes, the divided loyalties. You're off balance the whole time, trying to figure out who can be trusted. Nothing is ever black and white, and sometimes characters with the best intentions do the most damage.

The story takes place in Hamburg, so the Post-9/11 connection is apparent. Three of the 9/11 hijackers lived in Hamburg, including the mastermind Mohammed Atta. And if you think that US intelligence organizations missed some important clues in the months leading up to the event, apparently the fragmented German intelligence groups were even worse. So now they're stepping all over each other to try to make up for it And they're not the only ones. The Brits and the Americans are both eager to prove their talents in the war on terror. So when a 'most wanted man' surfaces in Hamburg all the agencies are scrambling to grab him.

I won't attempt to give you details of the plot, or even describe the characters. With John le Carré I find it best to just strap yourself in and go along for the ride. But as I approached the end of the book I was a nervous wreck. I had to keep reading to find out what happened to these people I had grown to like, but knowing Le Carré, I was pretty certain it wouldn't be a happily-ever-after ending for all of them. That's the mark of a great storyteller.

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