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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 A Perfect Spy, Tiger is based on le Carré's own con-man dad. The cold war is over, but le Carré is hot. And he will endure. --Tim Appelo
Le Carre, John
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