Chippings from a master's chisel: ten short stories and an epilogue artfully disguised as a novel of post-glasnost reminiscences of espionage, all showing le Carre at his most nervously relaxed. Grand old man George Smiley agrees to address narrator Ned York's graduating class at Sarratt; his urbanely pointed remarks serve as the text for each of the retrospective anecdotes that follow. A few of these are slight and unexpectedly charming: Ned and company surround a mysterious Arab following a princeling's favorite wife in a Knightsbridge store, only to learn that he's been sent to pay for the trinkets she's shoplifting; Ned gets the news of Bill Haydon's unmasking (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) just after repairing a priceless tapestry he's drilled through in inserting a bug for the Vatican in a corrupt bishop's room; Smiley plays along with a dead criminal's pretense that he was with the service in order to comfort his grieving parents. But even the more substantial stories—Ned's old friend Ben Arno Cavendish goes to pieces after literally mislaying the documents that betray his network in Berlin; Ned recalls his suspicions of a Latvian sea captain's young, uncleared girlfriend; a raffish Hungarian agent tries to bolster his stock by arranging to have a friend of his defect as the agent's would-be assassin; Ned goes to Israel to interrogate a terrorist who lectures him savagely; an American in Vietnam endures torture and imprisonment for the sake of the half-Asian daughter who, he realizes, despises him; a low-level clerk is turned to counterespionage by a Russian-language radio program—even these pieces are graceful and curiously humorous in a way new to le Carre's work, though not to be compared in scope or intensity with the Smiley/Karla novels. The epilogue—a gunrunner's impassioned self-justification—will make you wonder just who the real enemy is. Le Carre's earlier novels have made distinguished films and TV miniseries; this one, sure to attract the author's usual huge print audience, reads like a series of sketches for a weekly program—say, Spies Who Came in from the Cold.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 1990

ISBN: 0345504429

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1990

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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