Thursday, 1 March 2012

Book Review: A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre

For a title that connotates action, adventure and drama of an exquisite level you would anticipate blood, sex and danger. But what is actually brought to the reader is a tale so perplexing, and at times boring, that deeming it ‘perfect’ would seem false and obscure from the reality that is churned out from chapter to chapter.

Yes, there is a spy. And an interesting tangle of spy networks across the globe. Set in various European cities, thrown in with a British backdrop and the odd gun or mystery, it does have the elements for a proper crime tale. No doubt, the author has experience too, with over 70 years of writing to his name and the usual acclaims and accolades you would expect from a writer. Moreover, he is from Eton (Eton being the establishment of a younger James Bond - Carre knows his stuff!)
The main character, Magnus Pym, is a mysterious lone - ranger; caught up with many a heroine as his past unravels. His family and colleagues also provide substance and emotion; of love, of passion, of betrayal and death. Instead of car chases, suicide and gang culture beckoning from the print, we read into a book that is all about Pym’s childhood - letter’s to his son, before he commits suicide. Great, a ‘book within a book’. 701 pages of the past, with more secrets then the government expenses scandal! So what I imagined as a chase across the globe turns into a frightfully dull experience of ‘Who do you think you are?’ where the only action occurs at the end when Magnus decides enough is enough. Not a surprise to imagine I was thinking the same thing after this tiresome paperback!
So as I rushed through the chapters and repetitive back and forth into this spy’s story, all that revealed was a never ending flashback - a certain variation from the promising blurb at the back of the book, ‘revealing a life made up of secrets.’ The only secret I could make out was the fact I was getting two books for the price of one; the ‘This is your life’ family history added with a poor sense of crime and drama. Yes, there were parts of interest; the character of Jack Brotherhood carried most of the‘traditionalist’ spy virtues - many women, no sleep, a taking to Vodka. If the story were based on him, who at parts is seemingly easy to believe, it would have made the tale a pleasant and exciting journey from start to finish. But alas, this was not to be.
Perhaps John Le Carre tried to hard on focusing on a new type of spy - a more modern take on crime, although one would deem this hypocritical seeing as most of it was based on memoirs from the past! In future, I will stick to that certain familiar, if not stereotypical, portrayal of a ‘James Bond-esque’ spy drama that captivates the reader from cover to cover. A stereotype that for me, never fails to deliver. Thus bringing an essence of a truly‘perfect spy’ - which this book failed to deliver.

2/5 Stars

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

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