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Our Kind of Traitor: A Novel Hardcover – October 12, 2010

3.1 out of 5 stars 293 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Much to the dismay of many longtime fans, le Carré chose to keep up with the times after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet, despite his shift from Cold War-era espionage to more contemporary themes, le Carré's signature stark prose, pitch-perfect dialogue, authentic characters, and moral indignation have stood the test of time. The critics were pleased to see "the master" (Telegraph) back in action, but some had reservations: While the Guardian lamented the "long, fussily narrated opening," the Scotsman praised Traitor's "long and elegantly paced plot." Others quibbled about some dubious plot devices and cartoonish villains, but these complaints paled beside "the old magic" (Telegraph). Intriguing and tense, Traitor shines a blinding, angry, and welcome light on shady international finances and underhanded intelligence agents.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022243
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (293 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Two or three summers ago a top British politician called Peter Mandelson (PM) was spotted on a luxury yacht owned by a Russian aluminium tycoon called Oleg Deripaska and PM was not the only British notable on board.

JLC's 22nd novel is a brilliantly-plotted, -researched and -written novel about love, honour and betrayal.

OKT is primarily an assault on Britain's ruling strata. And only secondly about the Kremlin's campaign to control Russian organized crime much as they subdued the oligarchs a decade earlier: "Share with us, or else!" The oligarchs complied, fled abroad or were jailed. Dealing with Russia's crime syndicates is harder. They are age-old brotherhoods of "honourable criminals" ("vory") living by strict codes whereby talking to, let alone dealing with the State is a sin punishable by death. But in this novel this Russian version of "omertá" is breached somewhere, somehow: Russia's seven richest and best-organized crime syndicates make a deal with the Kremlin. But there is one major obstacle.
His name is Dima, which is short for Dimitri, an honourable criminal since the age of 14, who survived 15 years in ice-cold Kolyma, and has since worked his way up to become the world's best money launderer on behalf of himself and the Seven Brotherhoods. Now he is doomed because he knows too much and is not willing to sell out, deal with the State. He is a blunt, bearlike, forceful, emotional, desperate Russian with only days or weeks to live once he has signed over his private business empire to the Seven Brotherhoods and disclosed where he he hid their tens of billions of loot, when the book starts.
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Format: Hardcover
John le Carre is one of those authors that everybody tells me I should read, and whom I really want to read. But his towering body of work is... a little intimidating.

So I decided to start with "Our Kind of Traitor," his latest thriller. And it's a solid place to start -- new characters that don't require previous books to understand, heart-pounding suspense, and a genteel British gloss. It's an intelligent and gripping story, but at times le Carre seems to just lose his enthusiasm..

Young Oxford don Perry and his lawyer girlfriend Gail are on vacation in Antigua when they encounter Dima, a Russian millionaire with a large, grim family, a hearty love of the English, and a lavish hand with money. It turns out that he's a professional money-launderer in trouble with a mobster called The Prince. He's willing to spill everything he knows, as long as he and his family are kept safe.

Enter Hector Meredith, an aging spy who runs his own little sub-agency, and who is Dima's best chance of not getting killed. But Perry and Gail "have wandered by sheer accident into a richly planted minefield," and under Hector's guidance they soon find themselves whisked on an international adventure...

"Our Kind of Traitor" is a brilliant novel that's been hobbled. The first few chapters are mostly told in flashback, which saps some of the tension from the story. And the last few chapters feel as if John le Carre got tired of the story he was telling, so he slapped together an ending and pasted it on the end.

So as you can guess, the best part is the middle. Le Carre's prose is smooth, genteel and distinctly British, but fractured with some gritty looks at the underbelly of civilization.
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Format: Hardcover
You can read John le Carré as the author of spy thrillers --- not just today's gold standard, but the best there ever was --- and enjoy his books as escapist fiction.

Or you can read them --- the last few, in any event --- as slightly fictionalized but absolutely authoritative news stories you won't read anywhere else because traditional media sources don't dare to report the truth or are part of an elite conspiracy to keep us from getting the truth.

How should you read him?

As it happens, le Carré gives us --- well, he gives reviewers like me --- a little help. Inside copies of his new book he includes a reprint of a December 13, 2009 piece from The Guardian. The headline: "Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisor." The subhead: "Drugs and crime chief says $352 billion in criminal proceeds was effectively laundered by financial institutions."

The inescapable conclusion: Our most respected bankers will take money from anyone --- even drug lords --- in order to prop up their failing institutions.

Translation: The fix is in.

But I don't want to spoil "Our Kind of Traitor" for you. Forget I've told you even this much. You can't? Trust me. You will. Once you start caring about the people, the last thing on your mind will be How It Ends.

Anyway, there's no mention of money laundering in the beginning. Peregrine Makepiece --- literally: a foreigner who makes peace --- is vacationing on Antigua with Gail Perkins, his extremely attractive live-in girlfriend. Perry was, until recently, a tutor in English Literature at Oxford; Gail is a barrister with a future.
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