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A Most Wanted Man Hardcover – October 7, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 457 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When boxer Melik Oktay and his mother, both Turkish Muslims living in Hamburg, take in a street person calling himself Issa at the start of this morally complex thriller from le Carré (The Mission Song), they set off a chain of events implicating intelligence agencies from three countries. Issa, who claims to be a Muslim medical student, is, in fact, a wanted terrorist and the son of Grigori Karpov, a Red Army colonel whose considerable assets are concealed in a mysterious portfolio at a Hamburg bank. Tommy Brue, a stereotypical flawed everyman caught up in the machinations of spies and counterspies, enters the plot when Issa's attorney seeks to claim these assets. The book works best in its depiction of the rivalries besetting even post-9/11 intelligence agencies that should be allies, but none of the characters is as memorable as George Smiley or Magnus Pym. Still, even a lesser le Carré effort is far above the common run of thrillers. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

While this novel may be le Carre's first take on espionage in Europe after the Cold War, critics could not be more divided over its quality. Alan Furst, himself one of the greats of the genre, opines that A Most Wanted Man might be one of the author's best, not for its content so much as for its technical brilliance. But other reviewers panned the work, arguing that le Carre's outrage over recent American intelligence practices distorts the plot and renders many of the characters as mere cliches. Perhaps the consensus is that A Most Wanted Man is an enjoyable le Carre novel (and therefore much better than most thrillers)—but far from his best.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416594884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416594888
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (457 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kevin Joseph VINE VOICE on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
John le Carre bases A Most Wanted Man on a most unlikely premise. To depict the extent of Western xenophobia and scapegoating spawned by 9/11, he chooses to set this spy novel not in the country that was struck by the terrorists, or in the nations targeted by the ensuing War on Terror, but in the country that served as a way station for several key 9/11 terrorists.

Hamburg, Germany, a city known for its openness to foreigners, is infiltrated by a fractured young man from Chechnya who may (or may not) pose the next grave threat to Western civilization. Young Issa's improbable entry into Germany, tenuous connection to Islamic radicals, and inherited right to a large secret bank account held by British-owned Brue Freres, place him in the crosshairs of German, British and United States intelligence agencies, each with its own mysterious agenda. When young civil rights attorney Annabel petitions bank owner Tommy Brue to release the secret funds and help protect Issa from deportation, Annabel and Tommy find themselves caught up in a multi-layered plot that tests their willingness to sacrifice their reputations and livelihoods for the benefit of this enigmatic young man.

A Most Wanted Man succeeds not only as a sophisticated spy thriller, but also as a nuanced character study, provocative political commentary, and thoughtful examination of what it really means to be a moral human being. The writing is fluid throughout, and the well-constructed plot builds suspense even in the absence of violent action. The ending, though, left me with the impression that le Carre wound this tale so tightly that it jammed up at the climax and could not release properly. When this gets made into a movie, as seems to be the case with most of le Carre's books, the screen writer's challenge will be to devise a more fitting resolution to this fantastic build-up.
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Format: Hardcover
Years ago, I was awestruck by the power of Le Carre's books, from "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" to "The Little Drummer Gi rl." Later, I found myself caught up in the problems of "The Night Manager." I loved the moral complexities, the character depth, and the astute dialogue.

Since then, few of his novels have held me in quite the same way. They often seem vague, floundering, with no real direction. "A Most Wanted Man" has glimpses of that old Le Carre, though never as focused or riveting as in those earlier years. This time around, we are drawn into the mystery of a young man from Chechnya who's shown up in Germany. He bears marks of imprisonment and mental instability, and yet he seems to have valuable connections in the German banking industry. He receives pity and mercy from a banker and a female lawyer, while being hunted by shadowy figures from past and present. Along the way, Le Carre makes some biting commentary on the state of affairs in the modern Western world.

As expected, we are given in-depth looks at character and setting here, as well as the emotional and political structures that rise and fall around our desire for democracy. It's an interesting story, if not a bit windy in places. It was more cohesive than some of his recent efforts, but still lacked that beating heart that seemed to pulse in his earlier books--even faintly. I kept waiting for that resuscitation to happen here, but it never quite did so. After a few books of his that have showed this same lifelessness, I wondered why.

I went to Mr. Le Carre's website the other day and found this quote from him: "nothing that I write is authentic...Artists, in my experience, have very little centre. They fake. They are not the real thing." I strongly disagree with this statement.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
George Orwell.

With the possible exception of one young German lawyer there are no revolutionary acts in John Le Carre's "A Most Wanted Man". Rather, we have high-level functionaries from German, British, and US intelligence agencies for whom deceit is the norm and truth plays, at best, a secondary role in acting in what is or may be in each country's national interest. In tone and substance this is not much different from Le Carre's Cold War fiction. The trick is to see whether the same cynical realism plays as well in today's `war on terror'. Le Carre's transition from the Cold War to the brave new world post-9/11 is excellent. The result is a book that is dark, cynical, and almost as rewarding as the best of Le Carre's earlier fiction.

The most wanted man in question is Issa. Issa is the product of the rape of a Chechnyan woman by a Red Army Colonel stationed in Chechnya. Raised by his father in Russia, Issa flees to the west after his father dies. Issa finds his way to Hamburg and despite his famished look it appears that Issa has connection to money and influence. He is also, apparently, a Muslim and because of his Chechnyan heritage he is identified by Russian intelligence agencies as a suspected terrorist. German, US, and British intelligence agencies based in Hamburg quickly identify him as a person of interest. The other main protagonists are Annabel Richter and Tommy Brue. Richter is a newly qualified attorney who has foregone work in private practice to work for a German civil rights organization created to assist immigrants and refugees in normalizing their status in Germany. Brue is a private banker whose bank is the depository of the significant funds Issa may lay claim to.

Le Carre does a wonderful job portraying Issa, Richter, and Brue.
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