John Le Carré (4 stars)

The Mission Song (Hodder & Stoughton)


Twenty books into his celebrated career, you don’t pick up a John Le Carré novel without knowing what to expect. Doubtless boosted by the recent cinematic success of The Constant Gardener, his new one has it all: ruminations on the inner workings of the secret services, densely-researched insight into the political nature of overseas politics, and crisp, page-turning prose.

Le Carré’s fulcrum Bruno Salvador - known as Salvo to his friends and enemies - is the genteel son of an Irish Catholic missionary and a Congolese tribeswoman, employed as an interpreter by morally dubious organisations and on a pro bono basis by those in dire need. Married, but tempted by the prospect of an affair, Salvo offers a unique viewpoint on Le Carré’s concerns over the Western co-opting of African affairs which ensues. Neither too preachy nor, admittedly, too pacy, this novel still feels like a most enjoyably received education.

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