Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mount TBR #27

I read this book for the Mount TBR reading challenge 2014.

The Russia House – John Le Carre, 1989

Barley Blair a hard-drinking down-at-heels publisher. Purely by a chance drunken encounter during a strip to the perestroika-era USSR, Blair impresses Goethe, a dissident scientist that works in the weapons industry. Goethe implies Sov weapons technology works about as well as it nuclear industry, but that the lower levels constantly talk blue-skies to the upper levels. The British and American spy agencies are tantalized at the prospect of getting a live source. They press Blair to return to Russia, contact Goethe, and pump him for more intelligence. As we would expect, Blair resents being exploited and falls in love with a Russian woman besides. His going off the rails is chronicled in this interesting and involved novel disguised as a spy story.

The story is told in first person by the tame legal adviser to British intelligence – think a bureaucrat,  ever ready to tell his superiors what they want to hear. He surveys the nothingness of his personal life and his flight into the secret world through Blair’s story.

This novel is good, worth reading though lacking the compulsive draw of barn-burners such as The Honorable Schoolboy, The Perfect Spy, and the incredible The Night Manager. The movie made from this book starred Sean Connery, miscast in the lead, and Michelle Pfeiffer –meh as the female lead.

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