A review of A Delicate Truth, by John LeCarre
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
On the cover of A Delicate Truth, Gibraltar looms like the vast bulk of reality weighing down on the idealism and sense of duty that preoccupy the novel’s protagonist, as they do in so many of the works of John Le Carre. Gibraltar itself does play a key role here as the site of an incident that brings together a motley cast of hapless souls: the upstanding senior officer and the bent but bumbling junior Minister he answers to; the Minister’s fast-track Private Secretary and his jaded mentor; the upper-crust opportunist, his right-wing American bedfellows, and the British Special Forces soldiers made pawns in their machinations. This unlikely assortment of 21st century humanity is thrown together in what can most fairly be described as one glorious clusterf***.
The incident in question is a joint UK-US anti-terrorism operation in Gibraltar engineered under the tightest secrecy by the Minister and his shady partner-in-crime, financed by Texas-based evangelical Christian activists, and executed under cover of darkness by a combined force of handpicked British Special Forces and mercenaries in the employ of a mysterious American defense contractor. Our hero, Toby Bell, Private Secretary to the Minister but kept in the dark by him, learns that the whole thing went south. As the story slowly emerges when Toby is compelled to follow the breadcrumbs to the truth, he is thrown together with the now-retired diplomat who was attached to the mission and the diplomat’s daughter, a comely physician ministering to the poor in London’s East End. Toby’s rush to the truth through the minefields of institutionalized compromise is fraught with mystery, terror, pain, suspense, and the inklings of romance. Yes, A Delicate Truth is, in fact, one glorious tale, proof that John Le Carre at 81 still writes with the extraordinary skill he treated us to in the 1960s.