A Delicate Truth

John le Carré (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; Our Kind of Traitor) is fed up and cranky in A Delicate Truth. His stock in trade has been an investigation of the moral swamp that is diplomacy; his characters and their stories have always been about ambiguity, that place where almost true or almost right isn't good enough--but sometimes it's all a man has.

In 2008, a plot to capture an arms dealer in Gibraltar under the guise of counterterrorism goes wrong in a big way. Everyone involved knows what really happened, but no one is talking. Three years later, one of the soldiers involved ends up dead. It's time to tell the truth, but doing so is very dangerous--nearly everyone involved is still actively engaged, and nobody wants the boat rocked. A man of good conscience tries to make things right. Le Carré makes us believe in this man's integrity, a contrast to the venality of others.

In le Carre's previous novels, sometimes everyone is questionable, or else the bad guys are fairly easy to spot while the good guys jump off the page waving their white hats. Not so in A Delicate Truth: Here, le Carré doles out equal portions of contempt for both the diplomats and the crooks (some of whom are also diplomats). No one is spared his sword in this tale of an operation gone wrong--the two good guys, sadly, spared least of all. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.

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