John le Carré‘s latest novel, Our Kind of Traitor, is set in contemporary, recession gripped Britain. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis.
What else he wants propels the young lovers on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain’s Intelligence Establishment.
Those readers who have found post–cold war le Carré too cerebral will have much to cheer about with this Russian mafia spy thriller.
While on holiday in Antigua, former Oxford tutor Perry Makepiece and his lawyer girlfriend, Gail Perkins, meet Dmitri “Dima” Vladimirovich Krasnov, an avuncular Russian businessman who challenges Perry to a tennis match. Even though Perry wins, Dima takes a shine to the couple, and soon they’re visiting with his extended family. At Dima’s request, Perry conveys a message to MI6 in England that Dima wishes to defect, and on arriving home, Perry and Gail receive a summons from MI6 to a debriefing. Not only is Dima a Russian oligarch, he’s also one of the world’s biggest money launderers. Le Carré ratchets up the tension step-by-step until the sad, inevitable end.
His most accessible work in years, this novel shows once again why his name is the one to which all others in the field are compared.
Publishers Weekly 09/08/2010