On a Turkish hillside, ex-Communist mobsters shatter the skull of a corrupt English lawyer. In a sleepy English village, the authorities ask a lonely children's magician how come £5,000,030 sterling just got anonymously deposited in his baby daughter's bank account. With machine-like logic and soulful literary magic, John le Carré links these two events in Single & Single, a stay-up-all-night thriller.
The magician is Oliver Single, the tormented son of Tiger Single, a rogue banker the Financial Times calls "the knight errant of Gorbachev's New East." In fact, Tiger is sinking his fangs into that crucial one-tenth of world trade free of pesky regulations--illegal drugs--and secretly selling donated disaster-relief blood. Mum's the word in Tiger's mob: as the lawyer's executioner notes, "Is not convenient to hear that American capitalists are bleeding poor nations literally."
Oliver comes in from the cold to help spymaster Brock track Tiger down. That £30 sterling signified Judas's silver, but Oliver yearns to save Tiger's life, too. Le Carré wizardly juggles dozens of characters in a zigzag, globetrotting plot. You-are-there realism, narrative drive, pitch-perfect dialog--why can't movies be this good? Like lightning, le Carré's metaphors both dazzle and blazingly illuminate the world.
Ex-spy le Carré was there when the Berlin Wall went up, and his spy craft is legendarily realistic. His female spy/love interest is less so--the opposite of a femme fatale, she might be termed a "deus sex machina." But the book's crucial father-son relationship is quite real, because, like the irresistible villain of Hardcover edition.
Le Carre makes the best of a post-Cold War world . . ., August 15, 2003 Reviewer: Michael K. Smith from Baton Rouge, LA USA Ten years ago, many of us were concerned that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union would also spell the end of Le Carre's masterful stories of international subterranean intrigue and mischief. We needn't have worried. We forgot that that there's just as much venality and disregard for law and civilization in the West as there ever was in the East. Le Carre's earlier work has reached its inevitable end, but the saga of George Smiley has been succeeded, if not replaced, by a series of individual tales featuring characters like (in this one) Nat Brock of the Customs Service, pursuer of the launderers of illicit offshore wealth in the hands of drug lords, arms dealers, and the Russian Mafia. The laundry being the House of Single, under the proprietorship of "Tiger" Single, who expects his surviving son and junior partner, Oliver, to someday succeed him. Oliver becomes closely acquainted with the Orlov brothers and their billion-dollar schemes, learns to fear the Georgians and their henchmen, and finds his view of the House of Single changing more than he would like. Being young and recently called to the law, he can take only so much before he peaches to the authorities in the person of Brock. And Brock, who can barely contain his glee, trains the young turncoat in undercover work and puts him back in his father's House as a mole. This is not quite what Oliver had in mind and, after causing his father considerable financial grief, he finally flees the whole scummy mess, preferring to hide out in a seaside resort as a children's party clown and magician. Then the Russians become more than Tiger, in his straitened circumstances, can successfully deal with, and Oliver is swept up in the acceleration of events. As always, Le Carre's characters are four-dimensional and utterly believeable. His narrative proceeds on several lines at once, in both the past and the present, which will keep you busy sorting out what has happened and guessing what is about to happen. This is his best work in several years. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition