Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Night Manager

A single act turned Jonathan Pine from a Cairo hotel manager into a spy.  One night a guest asked Pine to copy some documents.  The guest, though, was a local criminal's mistress and ex-wife of Richard Onslow Roper, the Worst Man in the World, and the documents involved gunrunning.  Pine made his own copies and gave them to a friend at the British consulate.  With this act (and why did he do it? Le Carre doesn't give Pine's motivation), he causes Sophie's murder.

Two years later, Pine meets Roper.  The Worst Man in the World and his entourage check into the Zurich hotel where Pine now works and after a disquieting encounter, Pine offers himself to the secret service.  He's accepted and given a series of new, shady identities before being set up to save Roper's 7-year-old son from kidnappers.  Roper is grateful, but doesn't quite trust him; Roper's second-in-command Major Corkoran, believe Pine is a plant.  Le Carre alternates between scenes of Pine's assimilation into Roper's criminal enterprise and scenes of his handlers sweating it out (sometimes literally) in tiny, drab rooms.  The plot is perhaps a bit too complicated, but Le Carre's language, as usual, is evocative enough to gloss over a little confusion.  Because of this (and an unconvincing romantic subplot), I rank The Night Manager a step or two below the other Le Carre books I've read.  Very good, but with a few flaws that prevent it from reaching excellence.

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