Single & Single
Reviewed: December 4, 2005
By: John le Carre
Publisher: Penguin Books
449 pages, $10.99
A good many of John le Carreís novels
deal, in one way or another, with the very difficult relationship that David
Cornwell had with his con-man father. le Carre dealt with this quite specifically
in A Perfect Spy (1986), but itís hard not to see another version of
that story in this 1999 novel, in which a father and son are actually pitted
against each other for part of the tale and then the son, Oliver, has to track
down and rescue his dad from the Russian mafiosi who have kidnapped him.
None of this is clear from the outset.
Oliver, it emerges, is in some sort of witness protection program, having
finally revolted from the business he had grown up in under the watchful eye
of his roguish father. Single & Single, you see, trade on the international
market. They expedite things, and a good many of their clients are less than
Proving once again that the collapse
of the Cold War actually opened up more plots for thriller writers, le Carre
takes us on a tour of the low-end trading business, providing the back story
to the main event by having Oliver recall the workings of ďTigerĒ Singleís
affairs, sometimes while brooding about his own betrayal, sometimes while
answering questions posed by a dogged copper named Brock.
Brock wants to put Tiger away. Oliver
doesnít object too much to that, but first he wants to save his fatherís life.
He feels itís the least he can do. Torn between his disgust at Tigerís illegal
activities and his disgust with himself for playing Judas, Oliver has to fool
the cops and the crooks in order to accomplish his goal, and he couldnít have
managed it without some help - but you can read all about that.
I was put off le Carre for a spell
after the depressing book and movie versions of The Tailor of Panama.
Thatís why Single & Single sat on my shelf for so long. Iím glad
I finally got around to taking it down.