Excerpt from The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Constant Gardener

by John Le Carre

The Constant Gardener
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Dec 2000, 496 pages
    Nov 2001, 576 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

A rusting steel door stood closed against them and Banda hammered on it in a commanding manner, leaning back on his heels and rapping four or five times at calculated intervals as if a code were being transmitted. The door creaked open partway to reveal the haggard, apprehensive heads of three young men. But at the sight of the surgeon doctor they reeled back, enabling him to slither past them, with the result that Woodrow, left standing in the stinking hall, was treated to the hellish vision of his school dormitory given over to the AIDS-dead of all ages. Emaciated corpses lay two a bed. More corpses lay on the floor between them, some dressed, some naked on their backs or sides. Others had their knees drawn up in futile self-protection and their chins flung back in protest. Over them, in a swaying, muddy mist, hung the flies, snoring on a single note.

And at the center of the dormitory, parked by itself in the passage between the beds, stood matron's ironing board, on wheels. And on the ironing board, an arctic mass of winding-sheet, and two monstrous semihuman feet protruding from it, reminding Woodrow of the duck-feet bedroom slippers he and Gloria had given to their son Harry last Christmas. One distended hand had somehow contrived to remain outside the sheet. Its fingers were coated in black blood and the blood was thickest at the joints. Its fingertips were aquamarine blue. Use your imagination, Mr. Chancery. You know what happens to corpses in this heat?

"Mr. Justin Quayle, please," Dr. Banda Singh called, with the portent of a barker at a royal reception.

"I'm coming with you," Woodrow muttered and, with Justin at his side, stepped bravely forward in time to see Dr. Banda roll back the sheet and reveal Tessa's head, grossly caricatured and bound chin-to-skull in a strip of grimy cloth which had been led round the throat where her necklace had once hung. A drowning man rising to the surface for the last time, Woodrow recklessly took in the rest: her black hair plastered to her skull by some undertaker's comb. Her cheeks puffed out like a cherub's blowing up a wind. Her eyes closed and eyebrows raised and mouth open in lolling disbelief, black blood caked inside as if she'd had all her teeth pulled at the same time. You? she is blowing stupidly as they kill her, her mouth formed into an oo. You? But who does she say it to? Who is she ogling through her stretched white eyelids?

"You know this lady, sir?" Inspector Muramba inquired delicately of Justin.

"Yes. Yes, I do, thank you," Justin replied, each word carefully weighed before it was delivered. "It's my wife Tessa. We must fix her funeral, Sandy. She'll want it to be here in Africa as soon as possible. She's an only child. She has no parents. There is no one apart from me who needs to be consulted. Better make it as soon as possible."

"Well, I suppose that will have to depend a bit on the police," said Woodrow gruffly and was barely in time to make it to a cracked hand basin, where he vomited his heart out while Justin the ever-courteous stood at his shoulder with his arm round him, murmuring condolences.

Copyright © 2001 by David Cornwell.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.