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Top-notch thriller from John le Carre
A Delicate Truth by John le Carre (Viking, £19.99).
John le Carre shows once again why he is the master of the thriller genre in this very readable novel.
The action begins just before what turns out to be a disastrous counter-terror operation in Gibraltar.
The clandestine mission - to capture and abduct a high-value arms-buyer - has been mounted by an ambitious Foreign Office Minister and his private defence contractor friend.
We see the action unfold through the eyes of a middle-aged British diplomat Christopher Probyn, who is asked to be the eyes and ears of the minister and believes he is playing an important role in the service of his country.
It is only three years later when, having retired to Cornwall, he is reunited with one of the British soldiers caught up in the Gibraltar fiasco and comes to realise that he was an unwitting pawn in an illegal and ultimately tragic mission.
Later the story is told through the eyes of Toby Bell, the minister's private secretary, who tries to bring those responsible for justice.
There are some excellent characters in this book though I felt Bell's mentor Giles Oakley, who at first appeared as a wise, all-knowing George Smiley-like figure, faded from view and failed to live up to expectations - although perhaps that was probably le Carre's point, that everyone is fallible.
The best scene comes when the likable and idealistic Probyn turns up at the Foreign Office to demand action over the Gibraltar mission but is cruelly and viciously dismissed with some very clear threats by those who do not want dirty secrets being aired.
Le Carre has been writing novels for the past 50 years but shows here that he is still on top form.
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