Le Carré uses still another aspect of international relations in the new world order—the powerful, equivocal position of money launderers to the Russian mob—to put a new spin on a favorite theme: the betrayal that inevitably follows from sharply divided loyalties.
In between his hated old life as an Oxford don and his dimly imagined new life as a grade-school teacher, Peregrine Makepiece takes his girlfriend, rising barrister Gail Perkins, on holiday to Antigua. Their prowess on the tennis court is observed by an amiable Russian who presses Perry to play him. But Dima, né Dmitri Vladimirovich Krasnov, wants much more than a game. In return for providing details to Her Majesty’s Secret Service about his money laundering for the Seven Brothers, who dominate Russian organized crime, he wants asylum and protection for himself and his family. He wants his children to be placed in top English schools. And he wants Perry to hold his hand through it all. Following their exhaustive debriefing by Luke and Yvonne, a pair of jaundiced spooks, Perry and Gail are sent to Paris, where Dima has asked for a meeting that’s clearly supposed to set the stage for his flight from his comrades. Don’t try to behave like spies, Perry and Gail are advised—act innocent. That’s easily done, because the couple is much more innocent than they realize. Although they know more than they ought to about Dima’s family, especially his daughter Natasha, they know next to nothing about his business associates, and nothing at all of Luke’s fragile position in the Service, or his boss Hector Meredith’s complicated set of conflicts with financiers, lawyers, lobbyists and Members of Parliament whose agendas are quite different from Hector’s, Luke’s, Perry’s or Dima’s.
While other novelists are doing everything they can to inflate their tales of cloak and dagger, trust Le Carré (A Most Wanted Man, 2008, etc.) to make his story of international money laundering, political infighting and unwitting treachery into a chamber symphony of exquisite delicacy.