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Summary and book reviews of Single & Single by John Le Carre

Single & Single

by John Le Carre

Single & Single
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 1999, 345 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2000, 385 pages

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Book Summary

Masterful and prescient, Le Carré is writing at the height of his creative powers, and Oliver Single, the central protagonist, is one of his most fascinating characters.

A lawyer from the London finance house of Single & Single is shot dead on a Turkish hillside by people with whom he thought he was in business. A children's magician in the English countryside is asked by his bank to explain the unsolicited arrival of more than five million pounds sterling in his young daughter's modest trust. A freighter bound for Liverpool is boarded by Russian coast guards in the Black Sea. The celebrated London merchant venturer "Tiger" Single disappears into thin air.

In Single & Single the writer who both epitomizes and transcends the novel of espionage opens with a haunting set piece, then establishes a sequence of events whose connections are mysterious, complex and compelling. This is a story of corrupt liaisons between criminal elements in the new Russian states and the world of legitimate finance in the West. Le Carré's finest novel in years, it is also an intimate portrait of two families: one Russian, the other English; one trading illicit goods, the other laundering the profits; one betrayed by a son-in-law, the other betrayed, and redeemed, by a son.

This is territory le Carré knows better than anyone. Masterful and prescient, he is writing at the height of his creative powers, and Oliver Single, the central protagonist, is one of his most fascinating characters.

Excerpt
Single & Single

This gun is not a gun.

Or such was Mr. Winser's determined conviction when the youthful Alix Hoban, European managing director and chief executive of Trans-Finanz Vienna, St. Petersburg and Istanbul, introduced a pallid hand into the breast of his Italian blazer and extracted neither a platinum cigarette case nor an engraved business card, but a slim blue-black automatic pistol in mint condition, and pointed it from a distance of six inches at the bridge of Mr. Winser's beakish but strictly non-violent nose. This gun does not exist. It is inadmissible evidence. It is no evidence at all. It is a nongun. Mr. Alfred Winser was a lawyer, and to a lawyer facts were there to be challenged. All facts. The more self-evident a fact might appear to the layman, the more vigorously must the conscientious lawyer contest it. And Winser at that moment was as conscientious as the best of them. Nevertheless, he dropped ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Chicago Tribune

...an earnest successor to Joseph Conrad in making the novel of intrigue a vehicle for narrative invention and refined treatment of complex themes.

Time Magazine

[A] master storyteller whose narratives purr by with the smooth whoosh of a Bentley...the most interesting English novelist alive for his discussion of the quest for absolutes in an ambiguous, secular age.

The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

[T]he finest imaginative social historian of the postwar years.

Author Blurb Tom Wolfe
[M]ore than just a great storyteller. In Single & Single, he captures the Zeitgeist itself.

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