, John Le Carre's 21st novel, has some familiar aspects: a seemingly successful man facing a moral crisis; an idealistic woman who partly triggers that crisis; and spy agencies that don't much care for morals or laws.
It's all catnip to his many fans. From the opening pages you know Le Carre is delivering the goods, and -- until an abrupt and unsatisfying finsh -- he keeps up the spell.
The plot centers around Tommy Brue, a banker in Hamburg who is cruising along with few worries until he gets a phone message from an attorney. Brue's late father, it turns out, had been in business with Soviet officials who were looking for a safe place to put the loot they took as the evil empire crumbled; the son of one of those officials is now looking to claim it.
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Complicating matters is the fact that the son is a suspected Muslim terrorist.
Like much of Le Carre's classic work, it's not the nuts and bolts of the plot so much as it is the character studies of the people involved. And in that aspect, A Most Wanted Man is a step up from his more recent novels.
The end, as I say, is not going to please everyone, but perhaps that's the point. It seems, though, a sledgehammer ending to a book that, up until then, has been carefully chiseled by a masster sculptor.
-- Richard Connelly