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

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The Constant Gardener

by John Le Carre

The Constant Gardener
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2000, 496 pages
    Nov 2001, 576 pages

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"Sure. He was a great guy. Family's worried crazy. They got people everywhere looking for his head. If they can't find the head they can't give him a decent funeral and his spirit will come back to haunt them. Over."

"What about Miss Abbott? Over -- " a vile vision of Tessa without her head.

"Didn't they tell you?"

"No. Over."

"Throat cut. Over."

A second vision, this time of her killer's fist as it ripped off her necklace to clear the way for the knife. Wolfgang was explaining what he did next.

"Number one, I tell my boys, leave the doors closed. Nobody's alive in there. Anybody opening the doors is going to have a very bad time. I leave one group to light a fire and keep watch. I drive the other group back to the Oasis. Over."

"Question. Over." Woodrow was struggling to hold on.

"What's your question, Mr. Chancery? Come in, please. Over."

"Who opened the jeep? Over."

"The police. Soon as the police arrived, my boys get the hell out the way. No one likes police. No one likes to be arrested. Not up here. Lodwar police came first, now we've got the flying squad, plus some guys from Moi's personal Gestapo. My boys are locking the till and hiding the silver, except I haven't got any silver. Over."

Another delay while Woodrow wrestled for rational words.

"Was Bluhm wearing a safari jacket when they set out for Leakey's place? Over."

"Sure. Old one. More a waistcoat. Blue. Over."

"Did anyone find a knife at the scene of the murder? Over."

"No. And it was some knife, believe me. A panga with a Wilkinson blade. Went through Noah like butter. One swing. Same with her. Vump. The woman was stripped naked. Lot of bruising. Did I say that? Over."

No, you didn't say that, Woodrow told him silently. You omitted her nakedness completely. The bruising also. "Was there a panga in the four-track when they set out from your lodge? Over."

"I never knew an African yet who didn't take his panga on safari, Mr. Chancery."

"Where are the bodies now?"

"Noah, what's left of him, they give him to his tribe. Miss Abbott, the police sent a motor dinghy for her. Had to cut the jeep roof off. Borrowed our cutting equipment. Then strap her to the deck. No room for her downstairs. Over."

"Why not?" But he was already wishing he hadn't asked.

"Use your imagination, Mr. Chancery. You know what happens to corpses in this heat? You want to fly her down to Nairobi, you better cut her up or she won't get into the hold."

Woodrow had a moment of mental numbness and when he woke from it he heard Wolfgang saying yes, he had met Bluhm once before. So Woodrow must have asked him the question, although he hadn't heard it himself.

"Nine months back. Bear-leading a party of fat cats in the aid game. World food, world health, world expense accounts. Bastards spent a mountain of money, wanted receipts for twice the amount. I tell them to get fucked. Bluhm liked that. Over."

"How did he seem to you this time? Over."

"What's that mean?"

"Was he different in any way? More excitable or strange or anything?"

"What are you talking about, Mr. Chancery?"

"I mean -- do you think it possible he was on something? High on something, I mean?" He was floundering. "Well, like -- I don't know -- cocaine or something. Over."

"Sweetheart," said Wolfgang, and the line went cold.

Woodrow was once more conscious of Donohue's probing stare. Sheila had disappeared. Woodrow had the impression she had gone to do something urgent. But what could that be? Why should Tessa's death require the urgent action of the spies? He felt chilly and wished he had a cardigan, yet the sweat was pouring off him.

Copyright © 2001 by David Cornwell.

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