Harry Pendel is the charismatic proprietor of Pendel and Braithwaite Limitada of Panama, through whose doors everyone who is anyone in Central America passes; Andrew Osnard, mysterious and fleshly, is a spy. His secret mission is two-pronged: to keep a watchful eye on the political manoeuvrings leading up to the American handover of the Panama Canal on 31st December 1999; and to secure for himself the immense private fortune that has until now churlishly eluded him.
The story felt like an earlier draft of Absolute Friends, but not as compelling. Better than your average thriller, but still not recommended.
(And the disclaimer at the end about how the real British embassy staff are nothing like what's portraited in the novel kinda destroys the whole impact of the book. Why write a book implying a certain view of the how the world works then say, on the last page, "BTW I don't believe a word of this".)
'Arguably his best book since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold', says The times Educational Supplement on the cover. Well, no.
Makes me think that this is what happened to the USA in its intelligence gathering prior to the Iraq war.
The book was a bit slow going. The interspersed humor kept me going though.
Now, being a lot older, I decided to give le Carré one more chance and reached for one of his most famous novels, The Tailor of Panama. Oh, no no no no. Nothing has changed in the last several years. I still can't read his book. I forced myself as much as I could, reached a little over 40% and the thought that I have to read the next 60% is enough to make me feel miserable.
I can't even say what exactly I have a problem with. I think it's his writing style. Which stretches like chewed gum you try to unstick from under the chair, numb like a thirteen-hour flight after which you get a jet lag that leaves you totally confused and at times pseudo-poetic like poems of a thirteen-year-old with this bizarre pseudo-depth. Generally one of the most boring things I've read recently.
The situation is not saved by the plot or the characters. The plot may still be there, but the action is completely missing. Everything drags on. At a snail's pace. Scene after scene. Little by little. One meaningless conversation after another. Unhurriedly. From time to time a side thread that supposed to diversify the story and enrich the character, what story do I ask? And of course, a flashback, as if everything was not slow enough. Christ, how slow it is, counted in minutes! If you can handle this pace, that's fine, you might even like this book, but I couldn't stand it. After reading one page I was so bored that I couldn't bring myself to read the next one.
The thing is, Harry Pendel is even quite an interesting hero. But the writing style killed any desire to follow his actions in me. There was also something that irritated and upset me. I can't even say exactly what.
I was seriously wondering whether to force myself to finish this book, but reading it is such an unpleasant experience for me that I decided to abandon it. Le Carré is probably just not for me. I doubt I'll ever read his book again or finish this one. In fact, I'm so uninterested in this story that I don't even feel like watching a movie to find out how it all ended.
The plot did have lengthy bits but never once was I bored. The politics were relatively easy to follow and I enjoyed learning more about a country I knew nothing about.
Not one of LeCarré's best, but certainly a good example of this work, and an entertaining read.