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A Delicate Truth [NOOK Book]

Overview

A counter-terrorist operation, code-named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far-right. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister’s personal private secretary, Toby Bell, ...
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A Delicate Truth

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Overview

A counter-terrorist operation, code-named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer. Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office Minister, a private defense contractor who is also his bosom friend, and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far-right. So delicate is the operation that even the Minister’s personal private secretary, Toby Bell, is not cleared for it.

Three years later, a disgraced Special Forces Soldier delivers a message from the dead. Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be—or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher “Kit” Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house, and closely observed by Kit’s daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his Service. If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?


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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Smiley's People, and The Constant Gardener should need no introduction to readers on any side of any ocean. His twenty-third novel shows that this octogenarian and former MI6 agent is not content to do retreads of the Cold War espionage thrillers that made him famous. A Delicate Truth takes us in a Gibraltar counter-terrorism operation concocted by British foreign minister, an ambitious private defense contractor, and a zealot, corrupt CIA agent. That it comes to no good might not surprise anyone, but what happens next certainly will.

Library Journal
As he approaches the microphone, he adjusts his tie as well as his accent, with just a hint of his Glaswegian upbringing on show, but not too much, of course. Man of the people. "Allegations have been made concerning an initiative undertaken by New Labour, supposedly in concert with the U.S. government and with the support of a fundamentalist U.S. conglomerate on the soil of gallant Gibraltar. I'm here to tell you unequivocally that no such initiative was sponsored by the British government," he lies, and takes a sip of water. Le Carré, the author of such 20th-century classics as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, has nothing left to prove except that he can still be stung into turning out suspenseful, totally convincing political object lessons, as in his attack on the pharmaceutical industry in 2001's The Constant Gardener. His target of choice here is the mendacity of the British government and the easy camaraderie between the public and private sectors. VERDICT This is a guaranteed hair-raising cerebral fright, especially for anyone who enjoyed Robert Harris's The Ghost or who just knows his or her email account has been hacked. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
The New York Times Book Review - Olen Steinhauer
The narrative dominoes fall with masterly precision…and by the time [Toby's] joined by Kit's alluring daughter the story settles into classic conspiracy thriller territory, the two of them racing to assemble evidence before they can be silenced by the men who pull the strings. As ever, le Carré's prose is fluid, carrying the reader toward an inevitable yet nail-biting climax. This is John le Carré's 23rd novel, and neither prolificacy nor age…has diminished his legendary and sometimes startling gift for mimicry. More than the inventory of closely observed outfits, chronicles of public schools and slumped, bookish frames, it's the voices that give the characters in A Delicate Truth their most immediate claim to three-dimensionality.
The Washington Post - Colin Fleming
What makes A Delicate Truth work is that the story powers the writerly flourishes and, after a while, vice versa. This is popcorn reading—you can shovel buckets of it into your mouth as you turn the pages. At the same time, the narrative and temporal shifts enhance your sense of the complex choices that men like Paul, Jeb and especially Toby—he is our real hero in a three-man race—have to make, which in turn suggest choices we make as readers. In the case of A Delicate Truth, the rewarding choice is to follow le Carré down the labyrinthine corridors of a novel that beckons us beyond any and all expectations.
Publishers Weekly
State-sanctioned duplicity drives bestseller le Carré’s entertainingly labyrinthine if overly polemical 23rd novel, which features a corrupt British Foreign Office minister, Fergus Quinn, and an American private defense contractor “best known as Ethical Outcomes.” In 2008, a cloak-and-dagger plot to capture an arms dealer in Gibraltar under the mantle of counterterrorism goes awry. Quinn’s secretary, Toby Bell, who was kept out of the loop, has incriminating information about the mission and the chance to use it three years later when one of the soldiers involved ends up dead and a retired British diplomat, roped into participating against his will, tries to salve his conscience about some nasty pieces of collateral damage. As usual, le Carré (Our Kind of Traitor) tells a great story in sterling prose, but he veers dangerously close to farce and caricature, particularly with the comically amoral Americans. His best work has been about the moral ambiguity of spying, while this novel feels as if the issue of who’s bad and who’s good is too neatly sewn up. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
The distinguished chronicler of Cold War espionage and its costs casts his cold eye on the fog of war and its legacy when the war sets terrorists against the mercenaries and independent contractors to whom international security has been farmed out. A colorless midlevel civil servant is plucked from the anonymous ranks of the Foreign Office, given a wafer-thin cover identity as statistician Paul Anderson and packed off to Gibraltar, where he's to serve as the eyes and ears and, mainly, the yea or nay of rising Member of Parliament Fergus Quinn, who can't afford to be directly connected to Operation Wildlife. On the crucial night the forces in question are to disrupt an arms deal and grab a jihadist purchaser, both Paul and Jeb Owens, the senior military commander on the ground, smell a rat and advise against completing the operation. But they're overridden by Quinn, who says, "I recommend but do not command" that Operation Wildlife be completed. Shortly after its execution, Paul, promised "[m]edals all round," is bundled back into a plane bound for home. Sure enough, he emerges from the hush-hush affair with a knighthood and the unspoken thanks of a grateful monarch. Three years later, however, he happens to run into Jeb and hears the ruined soldier tell a decidedly less glorious story of the operation that involves extraordinary rendition, a dead mother and child, and a callous coverup. At the same time, Quinn's Private Secretary Toby Bell also becomes painfully aware of irregularities in the official record and confronts Jay Crispin, the Houston-based head of the private intelligence firm Ethical Outcomes, for answers. What he gets instead are more questions and personal danger. Resolutely keeping potential action sequences just offstage, le Carré (Our Kind of Traitor, 2010, etc.) focuses instead on the moral rot and creeping terror barely concealed by the affable old-boy blather that marks the pillars of the intelligence community.
The Barnes & Noble Review

From Absolute Friends (2003) on — through The Mission Song (2006), A Most Wanted Man (2008), Our Kind of Traitor (2010), and now A Delicate Truth — John le Carré's novels have increasingly reflected their author's conviction that both Great Britain and the United States have been evolving toward fascism. The books' plots have involved the rigged state of perpetual war and its attendant blights of secrecy, fear, extra-judicial apprehension, imprisonment, and killing, an accommodating and/or pusillanimous press, lickspittle government functionaries, and the licentious congress of business and the government. But even to one who shares le Carré's bleak outlook, A Delicate Truth seems crippled as a work of fiction by the weight of its author's dismay. Less than a novel — or at least less than the sort of novel le Carré is capable of — it is an instructive mock-up of the insalubrious effects of the privatized "war on terror."

That's the bad news; the good is that, despite its inadequacies, the book still displays le Carré's gift for summoning characters out of social types with a few deadly swipes of his pen and a mimic's ability to nail down their personalities and worldviews with a few passages of speech. Indeed, A Delicate Truth serves up such a bouncing bevy of bullies, trimmers, and cynics as to bring wicked joy to the gloomiest heart. Among them is a penny-ante junior minister, Fergus Quinn, MP, "Fergie to the world-a Scottish brawler, a self-styled bête intellectuelle of the New Labour stable." With "close-cropped ginger hair and quick greedy eyes set in a pugilist's face," he has a "carefully nurtured Glaswegian accent." Folded into Quinn's man- of-the-people bluntness is the necessary ingredient of Blairish waffle, such terms as "core values" and "fully appreciative of your concerns." Naturally, steeped as he is in the doctrines of market efficiencies, Quinn holds an MBA view of national defense: "Private defense contractors?. Name of the game these days. War's gone corporate, in case you haven't noticed. Standing professional armies are a bust. Top-heavy, under-equipped, one brigadier for every dozen boots on the ground, and cost a mint."

Quinn has a scheme up his sleeve involving the "extraordinary rendition," "abstraction" or "exfiltration" — kidnapping, in a word - - of an arms supplier whose clients are terrorists. It's a bit ticklish, a black op, actually, to be executed on what is considered British soil. The miscreant is supposedly holed up in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, and will be snatched by British Special Forces, the men temporarily discharged for form's sake (i.e., deniability) and handed over to mercenaries just offshore working for an outfit called Ethical Outcomes, the brainchild of a shady operator called Jay Crispin ("Third son of a posh Anglo-American family. Best schools. Sandhurst at second attempt. Ten years of bad soldiering. Retirement at forty. We're told voluntary, but one doubts it. Bit of City. Dumped. Bit of spying. Dumped. Sidles up alongside our burgeoning terror industry. Rightly observes that defence contractors are on a roll. Smells the money. Goes for it. Hullo, Ethical Outcomes.") The whole business, which includes sweeteners for Quinn among others, is being funded by a wealthy American right-wing evangelical Christian. Also involved on the ground is a British diplomatic lifer, code name Paul Anderson. This is Kit Probyn, late fifties, "a reliable has-been," an "honest-to- God Foreign Service dobbin," and honorable to the point of near imbecility, who hasn't a clue about what's really going on.

It's not easy for the reader to see why Probyn is really necessary to the caper (for which he is rewarded with a Caribbean commissionership and a knighthood), except if he were not, the scales could not fall from his eyes and the plot, such as it is, wouldn't get off the ground. Even so, it needs another career diplomat, young Toby Bell, Quinn's private secretary, to apply jumper cables. Toby, who has expunged "the brand marks" of his humble-ish birth from his tongue and his manner, is a man with prospects. He has been the protégé of a slippery Foreign Office éminence grise who has schooled him in diplomatic discretion or what a layperson might call cynicism. Still, Toby, who has been increasingly left in the dark by Quinn, is not, despite the lessons of the master, bereft of a sense of duty. He takes it into his head to record Quinn's secret meeting with Probyn, using an ancient recording device that, to the reader's surprise, still works. After some extracurricular sleuthing on Toby's part and in the fullness of time (three years), one of the Special Forces operatives shows up to spill the beans about what really went down at Gibraltar: a fatal fiasco. Toby and Kit — and eventually Kit's attractive physician daughter — begin to drill their way through layers of cover-up, including that of another murder.

This is a plot that must be viewed through a layer of gauze to blur its makeshift quality, but what is palpable throughout is the grid of powerful interests that increasingly operate with impunity in our world, a presence Toby calls Britain's "Deep State": "the ever- expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who [are] cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster." What kept me reading, however, are le Carré's characters, deftly painted with the shades of their social class and ideological markings set out with the author's customary high-spirited brio.

Katherine A. Powers reviews books widely and has been a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. She is the editor of Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963.

Reviewer: Katherine A. Powers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101618028
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 21,327
  • File size: 558 KB

Meet the Author


John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For the last fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    A Delicate Truth is a total joy to read. Classic in style while

    A Delicate Truth is a total joy to read. Classic in style while remaining current with wonderful characters as only le Carre can create.

    The exploration of ' soldiers for hire' supported financially by wealthy political blocs with an agenda is fascinating and their collaboration with duplicitous politicians elected to 'serve' from both sides of the ocean is perfection. As always le Carre has a deft understanding of the capacity for those in power to justify anything and for those who serve to be outraged and sometimes do something. I know I will read this again as I have so many of le Carre's creations, just to savor his style and descriptive sentences -such beautiful sentences- that make one go back just to taste them again !

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    Yet again, many of the ratings, good and bad, are by texters vis

    Yet again, many of the ratings, good and bad, are by texters visiting among themselves. None of them reflect actual readers views. To give a book 5 stars or 1 star just because you have to rate to review, is ridiculous. It's time BN starts taking this book review page seriously and reviews the 'reviews' before they are posted. Everyone - start flagging the texters as 'not helpful' and report the review as off topic or inappropriate content.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In the present atmosphere of clandestine operations, the result

    In the present atmosphere of clandestine operations, the result of which the public has been ill-informed and too often kept in the dark, John Le Carre has fashioned a novel built around a bungled black op covered up for three years. The story begins with the hatching of “Operation Wildfire,” comprising British special force soldiers and American mercenaries employed by a private company. The aim is to capture an arms dealer who, according to intelligence, is to visit the British colony of Gibraltar.

    A Foreign Office functionary is selected to be the on-the-spot eyes-and-ears for a minister of Her Majesty, nominally in charge of the operation. Like many such actions, it results in failure, but is declared a total success, despite the fact that two innocents are killed and the subject never captured. Three years later, various persons, directly or tangentially, separately begin to question the silence and attempt to uncover the facts. The promised “transparency” never seems to arrive.

    After a somewhat muddled beginning, in which Mr. Le Carre jumps all around, a bit confusing to the reader, he begins to move the plot straightforwardly and with dispatch. The author raises the basic question of right and wrong, also lambasting the use of private armies to wage “little wars” around the globe and old boy networks where mistakes are covered up and witnesses bought off. A topic that is, unhappily, very timely.

    Recommended.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013

    Awful

    Have been reading Le Carre for 20+ years. This book is the worst. Almost incomprehensible plot.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    ?????????

    Like a Seinfeld (sic) TV show, about nothing!! Nothing happens, no
    resolution, stupid ending!! I have read everything Le Carre has
    ever written and I think maybe he is deceased and they brought in
    a ghost writer who couldn't figure out how to end it so he just stopped
    and put it up for sale.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2013

    Vintage Le Carre

    A very fine example of the kind of self-serving chicanery that may never see the light of day. One has to wonder whether or not "fiction" is a vehicle to reveal a "truth".

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    I am 71 years old and have read all my adult life. I read about

    I am 71 years old and have read all my adult life. I read about 100 books a year. A Delicate Truth is possibly the WORST book I have ever read. I would rate it below 1 star.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2013

    Vintage LeCarre'

    This is the LeCarre' that I haven't seen since the Smiley series. Great read. Great new character.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Typical Le Carre. Liked very much.

    I had to work to read this book but it was worth it. The problem was the many characters he introduced. I finally kept a written list of their names and referred to the list when I got confused.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fabulous read. If you like well-plotted novels with me

    This is a fabulous read. If you like well-plotted novels with memorable characters, you'll love this book. Le Carre has never been better. Dale

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2013

    a fine le Carre

    le Carre
    returns to the yarns and convoluted stories which we so much enjoy. His characters are believable and true to form . There are no great surprises but a warm feeling of a good read .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    *****

    Excellent read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2014

    Very up-to-date but not as psychologically grabbing as his earli

    Very up-to-date but not as psychologically grabbing as his earlier books.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 13, 2014

    His best novel in years

    Some of LeCarre's recent novels have been thin on the character development and plot twists that have distinguished his earlier work. While perhaps still not as gripping as the Smiley trilogy, A Delicate Truth was for me his best work in a number of years. The main characters are more fully developed and we learn more about them and in the case of Kit his family.

    The nature of the story and its moral are very apropos in today's world of hidden government and private contractors. And the ending was just right for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2014

    Exceptional.  Would that our elected leaders would read it.

    Exceptional.  Would that our elected leaders would read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    Return to fine form This is Le Carré's best novel since The Cons

    Return to fine form
    This is Le Carré's best novel since The Constant Gardener. He is my favorite contemporary writer, and I read all his books. In my opinion, Le Carré's output was somewhat erratic in late 80s and 90s, as the Cold War ended. Still fine novels, interesting reads, but not on par with his Smiley classics of 1970s. Then, Le Carré had a hit in The Constant Gardener - his best novel, I think, since The Little Drummer Girl. It was followed by a number of rather less enticing stories. And now, finally, A Delicate Truth: edgy, well-constructed, spot-on story of post-recession, post-privacy, post-democracy world of corporate power that we live in. This is just as relevant as The Constant Gardener was 12 years ago and, if anything, is even better laid out, but just as chillingly realistic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    Hunter's Story: Chapter Three

    †ONE WEEK LATER† "Are you COMPLETELY sure it was her?" asked Nightstar. "Yes," said Sunsetfire. "I proved it." Nightgod closed his eyes. "Not during the fight with Darkness..." Nightgod knew that once he did this, there would be no going back, but he had no other choice. He had to kill the imposter. "Oceanblaze! Watch the camp" Nightgod said. Nightgod walked into the nursery, claws unsheathed.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Andrea

    Hey

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Karson

    Where should we go?

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Ashley to All

    Has anybody seen Alex? I was supposed to talk to her but my wifi was messed up.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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