SINGLE & SINGLE by John le Carré


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Now that the Evil Empire has fallen, le Carre (The Tailor of Panama, 1996, etc.) continues to explore the endless opportunities for junior-grade evil when East meets West through the accommodating offices of a wealthy banking family. In one forgotten corner of the world, a butterfly flaps its wings; in another, a life rebuilt of carefully planned lies begins to unravel. The butterfly is Alfred Winser, chief legal counsel to the banking firm of Single & Single, executed on a Turkish hilltop, to his astonishment, by financier Alix Hoban in the tour de force opening. A continent away in a Devon coastal town, children’s magician Oliver Hawthorne gets the news that his daughter Carmen’s trust fund has been credited with a deposit of ú5,000,030. The authorities who follow the news posthaste want to know the deposit’s source, but Oliver is more troubled by its figure: half a million pounds plus thirty pieces of silver (only the most obvious of le Carre's many biblical references). Oliver is shocked that his father, shadowy financier Tiger Single, knows how to find him four years after he bolted from the family business, horrified by the licentious scope of Tiger’s dealings with Georgian mob alumni Yevgeny and Mikhail Orlov. But Oliver’s sickened recollections of how his father’s business penetrated every crevice of Oliver’s life, from his family ties to the Orlov brothers to the affairs he commenced in a futile attempt to act out his independence, will inevitably yield to a more urgent imperative: his return to the fold when it becomes obvious that he’s the only person who has a chance of saving Tiger from the forces—the Georgian mob, an ambitious assassin, a treacherous flunky, the Inland Revenue—who seem to have been queued up for years awaiting their chance to destroy him. Deprived of the great subject of Cold War espionage he handled better than any other novelist, le Carre now argues that individual greed, not ideology, is the villain to watch out for, and individual enterprise the only possible hope.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85926-2
Page count: 347pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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