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A Most Wanted Man

Spies, the "War on Terror," and personal failings converge in John le Carre's latest thriller.

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To gauge how deeply much of the rest of the world abhors America’s current notion of justice, read John le Carré’s new novel about the war on terror. Even though American spies occupy little real estate in A Most Wanted Man, they bind its loose ends in a singularly dark fashion.

Set in Hamburg, where several engineers of 9/11 plotted their attack on the United States, le Carré’s latest book stars Issa Karpov, a Chechen refugee smuggled into town in strikingly murky circumstances.

He is the illegitimate son of Grigory Karpov, a former Soviet soldier who laundered tainted money through Brue Frères, a failing Hamburg bank run by Tommy Brue, a middle-aged man whose marriage is falling apart.

Tommy’s father, Edward, set up accounts called Lipizzaners, dedicated to laundering money such as Karpov’s.

Annabel Richter, a lawyer who works for Sanctuary North, an agency dedicated to asylum seekers and stateless persons, represents Issa – who arrived with a bag of money around his scrawny neck – in his dealings with Brue.

Also figuring in the plot: British, German, and American spies competing to see who can score the most points against the war on terror.

Le Carré weaves a tale designed to show the ambiguities that make that war less black-and-white than the American version.


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