The Night Manager

The Night Manager

2.7 7
by John le Carré

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John le Carré, the legendary author of sophisticated spy thrillers, is at the top of his game in this classic novel of a world in chaos. With the Cold War over, a new era of espionage has


John le Carré, the legendary author of sophisticated spy thrillers, is at the top of his game in this classic novel of a world in chaos. With the Cold War over, a new era of espionage has begun. In the power vacuum left by the Soviet Union, arms dealers and drug smugglers have risen to immense influence and wealth. The sinister master of them all is Richard Onslow Roper, the charming, ruthless Englishman whose operation seems untouchable. Slipping into this maze of peril is Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier who’s currently the night manager of a posh hotel in Zurich. Having learned to hate and fear Roper more than any man on earth, Pine is willing to do whatever it takes to help the agents at Whitehall bring him down—and personal vengeance is only part of the reason why.
Praise for The Night Manager
“A splendidly exciting, finely told story . . . masterly in its conception.”The New York Times Book Review
“Intrigue of the highest order.”Chicago Sun-Times
“Richly detailed and rigorously researched . . . Le Carré’s gift for building tension through character has never been better realized.”People
“Grimly fascinating, often nerve-wracking, and impossible to put down.”Boston Herald

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A splendidly exciting, finely told story . . . masterly in its conception.”The New York Times Book Review
“Intrigue of the highest order.”Chicago Sun-Times
“Richly detailed and rigorously researched . . . [John] Le Carré’s gift for building tension through character has never been better realized.”People
“Grimly fascinating, often nerve-wracking, and impossible to put down.”Boston Herald
Herbert Mitgang
Mr. le Carre has succeeded again. His characters, men and women, are as rich as any he has created, the locales are equally colorful and the story demands telling. He has put human faces on some of the worst troubles all over the world today. . . in "The Night Manager," the author leaves us with the possibility of change. After such a rough but remarkably readable journey through the arms and drug culture, Mr. le Carre deserves credit for keeping the flames of romance and idealism glowing. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Previously in The Secret Pilgrim , le Carre, our premier chronicler of the spy world, gave indications of where his future interests lay, now that the Cold War and the shadow world it created are firmly behind us. In The Night Manager he expands triumphantly on those hints, emerging as a scourge of the smooth international businessmen who, with their arms and drug deals, continue to make the world a hellish place for the poor and dispossessed. The title character is former military intelligence operative Jonathan Pine, now a smoothly urbane functionary at a top Zurich hotel, who one snowy night welcomes ``the worst man in the world'' and his corrupt, effete and brutal retinue to the hotel's luxury suites. Richard Onslow Roper is a British arms merchant on a colossal scale, based in the Bahamas but trading with shell companies all over the Caribbean and Central America. He is elegant, aristocratic, utterly cold-blooded and apparently inviolable, protected as he is by rogue former agents on both sides of the Atlantic who wish, for their own geopolitical, greedy and nationalistic reasons, to keep him operative. Pine, who once lost a loved mistress who knew too much to Roper's henchmen, resolves to unmask him; and the novel, written with all le Carre's mastery of atmosphere, character and desperate political infighting among the smoothest of Old School Brits, tells how, put in place by a handful of determined incorruptibles in London and Langley, Pine contrives to become part of Roper's inner circle. There are many hair-raising set pieces, a fake kidnapping on a Caribbean island and a poundingly exciting dash to the conclusion. The windup is oddly cursory, however, suggesting that villain Roper may be planning a return. If so, the author's many fans can look forward, with the knowledge that their favorite spy writer has made a brilliant transition to a bitter new world. 450,000 first printing; BOMC main selection. (July)
Library Journal
The ``night manager'' is Jonathan Pine, an orphan, former British soldier, gourmet cook, and superb sailor, now working for one of Zurich's posh hotels. At a former job in Cairo, he had been involved with a woman who was once married to ``the worst man in the world,'' and information he passed to the British secret service led to her murder. Now he is meeting the man she feared so much and starting in motion a series of events that will make Pine a murderer--stuck at the heart of an insidious but lucrative weapons-for-drugs deal. Le Carre ( The Russia House , LJ 6/15/89) brings to the world of the drug wars the same skilled characterization, perceptive detail, and dramatic storytelling that made him the undisputed master of the Cold War spy novel. This novel is precisely what we have come to expect from him: a work of high literary merit that's also great entertainment. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/93; BOMC main selection.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Bill Ott
Reviewers keep nattering on about the death of the spy novel, but John le Carre, dean of all spy novelists, keeps telling us what we should have known all along: you don't need Russians to have spies, and you don't need wars, at any temperature, to have reasons for spying. The personal versus the political--that's le Carre's real theme, and it's never really changed, from "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" through the Karla trilogy and now to this stunning "postwar" spy novel. All you need is a group and an individual in conflict: here the group is British Intelligence, in conflict with itself, fighting over diminished turf, and the individual is one Jonathan Pine, hotel night manager and volunteer spy, out to avenge the death of Sophie, a high-class Egyptian prostitute whom he loved and betrayed: "You are adept, she says. Yes, I am adept. I spy. I betray. I love when it is too late." So Jonathan sets out to "do anything, absolutely anything, rather than cringe any longer in the gloom of servile equivocation." With the help of a maverick branch of British Intelligence determined to wrest operational control from the latter-day cold warriors, Pine sets out to trap Dicky Roper, the man responsible for Sophie's death, a world-class arms dealer about to embark on a massive drugs-for-guns deal. The plan goes bad, of course, as the bureaucrats back at the home office squabble over who owns whom. It all comes down to choices: Do we protect the group (or the subgroup) by betraying the individual (either ourselves or others), or do we embrace the individual no matter the cost to the group and its ideals? The trappings of espionage--Iron Curtains, invisible ink, smuggled guns--give our struggles to answer these questions heightened drama, but, finally, it is the questions themselves that continue to haunt us and that give this novel its power and its universality. Le Carre has always known what many of us refuse to admit: we all want to come in from the cold, but even our most beloved groups will betray us if we try.
Kirkus Reviews
Le Carre‚ returns to the same subject as his disappointingly episodic The Secret Pilgrim—the fate of espionage in the new world order—but now looks forward instead of backward, showing a not-quite innocent mangled between that new order and the old one, whose course le Carr‚ has so peerlessly chronicled for 30 years. Jonathan Pine, night manager at a Cairo hotel, helps Arab playboy Freddie Hamid's mistress Madame Sophie photocopy papers linking him to arms mogul Richard Roper and, while he's at it, makes an extra copy to send to a friend in the Secret Service—only to find that the leak has gotten back to Freddie and that Jonathan's belated, guilty devotion to Sophie can't protect her from a fatal beating. Six months later, Jonathan, now working in Geneva, meets Roper in person and, vowing revenge, volunteers for Leonard Burr's fledgling government agency as the inside man who can supply actionable details of Roper's next arms- for-drugs deal. With the help of Whitehall mandarin Rex Goodhew, Burr sets up a plausibly shady dossier for Jonathan and stages the kidnapping of Roper's son so that Jonathan can foil the snatch and get invited aboard Roper's yacht. But even as Jonathan, still grieving for Sophie, finds himself attracted to Roper's bedmate Jed Marshall and overriding Burr's orders to stay out of Roper's papers, the boys in Whitehall—divided between independents like Goodhew, who want the old agencies broken up, and his cold-warrior nemesis Geoffrey Darker, who insists on maintaining centralized authority—are squabbling over control of the mission, with dire results for Jonathan, whose most dangerous enemies turn out to be his well-meaning masters backhome. Despite the familiarity of the story's outlines, le Carr‚ shows his customary mastery in the details—from Jonathan's self-lacerating momentum to the intricacies of interagency turf wars—and reveals once again why nobody writes espionage fiction with his kind of authority.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt


On a snow-­swept January evening of 1991, Jonathan Pine, the English night manager of the Hotel Meister Palace in Zurich, forsook his office behind the reception desk and, in the grip of feelings he had not known before, took up his position in the lobby as a prelude to extending his hotel’s welcome to a distinguished late arrival. The Gulf war had just begun. Throughout the day, news of the Allied bombings, discreetly relayed by the staff, had caused consternation on the Zurich stock exchange. Hotel bookings, which in any January were low, had sunk to crisis levels. Once more in her long history Switzerland was under siege.

But the Meister Palace was equal to the challenge. Over all Zurich, “Meister,” as the hotel was affectionately known to taxi drivers and habitués, presided physically and traditionally alone, a staid Edwardian aunt perched on her own hilltop, gazing down on the folly of hectic urban life. The more things changed in the valley, the more Meister stayed herself, unbending in her standards, a bastion of civilized style in a world intent on going to the devil.

Jonathan’s point of vantage was a small recess between the hotel’s two elegant showcases, both of them displaying ladies’ fashions. Adèle of the Bahnhofstrasse was offering a sable stole over a female dummy whose only other protection was a gold bikini bottom and a pair of coral earrings, price on application to the concierge. The clamor against the use of animal furs these days is as vocal in Zurich as in other cities of the Western world, but the Meister Palace paid it not a blind bit of notice. The second showcase—­by César, likewise of the Bahnhofstrasse—­preferred to cater for the Arab taste, with a tableau of lusciously embroidered gowns and diamanté turbans and jeweled wristwatches at sixty thousand francs a shot. Flanked by these wayside shrines to luxury, Jonathan was able to keep a crisp eye on the swing doors.

He was a compact man but tentative, with a smile of apologetic self-­protection. Even his Englishness was a well-­kept secret. He was nimble and in his prime of life. If you were a sailor you might have spotted him for another, recognized the deliberate economy of his movements, the caged placing of the feet, one hand always for the boat. He had trim curled hair and a pugilist’s thick brow. The pallor of his eyes caught you by surprise. You expected more challenge from him, heavier shadows.

And this mildness of manner within a fighter’s frame gave him a troubling intensity. You would never during your stay in the hotel confuse him with anybody else: not with Herr Strippli, the creamy-­haired front-­of-­house manager, not with one of Herr Meister’s superior young Germans, who strode through the place like gods on their way to stardom somewhere else. As a hotelier Jonathan was complete. You did not wonder who his parents were or whether he listened to music or kept a wife and children or a dog. His gaze as he watched the door was steady as a marksman’s. He wore a carnation. At night he always did.

The snow, even for the time of year, was formidable. Fat billows swept across the lighted forecourt like white waves in a tempest. The chasseurs, alerted for a grand arrival, stared expectantly into the blizzard. Roper will never make it, Jonathan thought. Even if they let his plane take off it can never have landed in this weather. Herr Kaspar has got it wrong.

But Herr Kaspar, the head concierge, had never got anything wrong in his life. When Herr Kaspar breathed “Arrival imminent” over the internal speaker, only a congenital optimist could imagine that the client’s plane had been diverted. Besides, why else would Herr Kaspar be presiding at this hour, except for a big spender? There was a time, Frau Loring had told Jonathan, when Herr Kaspar would maim for two francs and strangle for five. But old age is a different state. These days, only the richest pickings were able to lure Herr Kaspar from the pleasures of his evening television.

Hotel’s full up, I’m afraid, Mr. Roper, Jonathan rehearsed in another last-­ditch effort to fend off the inevitable. Herr Meister is desolated. A temporary clerk has made an unpardonable error. However, we have managed to obtain rooms for you at the Baur au Lac, et cetera. But that wishful fantasy too was stillborn. There was not a great hotel in Europe tonight that boasted more than fifty guests. The wealthiest of the earth were bravely hugging the ground, with the one exception of Richard Onslow Roper, trader, of Nassau, the Bahamas.

Jonathan’s hands stiffened, and he instinctively flicked his elbows as if to ready them for combat. A car, a Mercedes by its radiator, had entered the forecourt, the beams of its headlights choked with swirling snowflakes. He saw Herr Kaspar’s senatorial head lift and the chandelier glint on its pomaded rivers. But the car had parked on the far side of the forecourt. A taxi, a mere city cab, a no one. Herr Kaspar’s head, now glowing with acrylic light, sank forward as he resumed his study of the closing stock prices. In his relief, Jonathan allowed himself a ghostly smile of recognition. The wig, the immortal wig: Herr Kaspar’s one-­hundred-­and-­forty-­thousand-­franc crown, the pride of every classic concierge in Switzerland. Herr Kaspar’s William Tell of a wig, Frau Loring called it: the wig that had dared to raise itself in revolt against the millionaire despot Madame Archetti.

Perhaps to concentrate his mind while it was tearing him in so many directions, or perhaps because he found in the story some hidden relevance to his predicament, Jonathan recounted it to himself yet again, exactly as Frau Loring, the head housekeeper, had recounted it the first time she made him cheese fondue in her attic. Frau Loring was seventy-­five and came from Hamburg. She had been Herr Meister’s nanny and, as rumor had it, Herr Meister’s father’s mistress. She was the keeper of the legend of the wig, its living witness.

“Madame Archetti was the richest woman in Europe in those days, young Herr Jonathan,” Frau Loring declared, as if she had slept with Jonathan’s father too. “Every hotel in the world was after her. But Meister was her favorite until Kaspar made his stand. After that, well, she still came, but it was only to be seen.”

Madame Archetti had inherited the Archetti supermarket fortune, Frau Loring explained. Madame Archetti lived off the interest on the interest. And what she liked at the age of fifty-­something was to tour the great hotels of Europe in her open English sports car, followed by her staff and wardrobe in a van. She knew the names of every concierge and headwaiter from the Four Seasons in Hamburg to the Cipriani in Venice to the Villa d’Este on Lake Como. She prescribed them diets and herbal remedies and acquainted them with their horoscopes. And she tipped them on a scale scarcely to be imagined, provided they found favor.

And favor was what Herr Kaspar found in bucketloads, said Frau Loring. He found it to the tune of twenty thousand Swiss francs each annual visit, not to mention quack hair remedies, magic stones to put beneath his pillow to cure his sciatica, and half kilos of Beluga caviar on Christmas and saints’ days, which Herr Kaspar discreetly converted to cash by means of an understanding with a famous food hall in the town. All this for obtaining a few theater tickets and booking a few dinner tables, on which of course he exacted his customary commission. And for bestowing those pious signals of devotion that Madame Archetti required for her role as chatelaine of the servant kingdom.

Until the day Herr Kaspar bought his wig.

He did not buy it rashly, said Frau Loring. He bought land in Texas first, thanks to a Meister client in the oil business. The investment flourished, and he took his profit. Only then did he decide that like his patroness he had reached a stage in life where he was entitled to shed a few of his advancing years. After months of measuring and debate, the thing was ready—­a wonder wig, a miracle of artful simulation. To try it out he availed himself of his annual holiday on Mykonos, and one Monday morning in September he reappeared behind his desk, bronzed and fifteen years younger as long as you didn’t look at him from the top.

And no one did, said Frau Loring. Or if they did they didn’t mention it. The amazing truth was, no one mentioned the wig at all. Not Frau Loring, not André, who was the pianist in those days, not Brandt, who was the predecessor of Maître Berri in the dining room, not Herr Meister senior, who kept a beady eye for deviations in the appearance of his staff. The whole hotel had tacitly decided to share in the glow of Herr Kaspar’s rejuvenation. Frau Loring herself risked her all with a plunging summer frock and a pair of stockings with fern-­pattern seams. And things continued happily this way until the evening Madame Archetti arrived for her customary month’s stay, and as usual her hotel family lined up to greet her in the lobby: Frau Loring, Maître Brandt, André and Herr Meister senior, who was waiting to conduct her personally to the Tower Suite.

And at his desk Herr Kaspar in his wig.

To begin with, said Frau Loring, Madame Archetti did not permit herself to notice the addition to her favorite’s appearance. She smiled at him as she swept past, but it was the smile of a princess at her first ball, bestowed on everyone at once. She permitted Herr Meister to kiss her on both cheeks, Maître Brandt on one. She smiled at Frau Loring. She placed her arms circumspectly round the undeveloped shoulders of André the pianist, who purred, “Madame.” Only then did she approach Herr Kaspar.

“What are we wearing on our head, Kaspar?”

“Hair, Madame.”

“Whose hair, Kaspar?”

“It is mine,” Herr Kaspar replied with bearing.

“Take it off,” Madame Archetti ordered. “Or you will never have another penny from me.”

“I cannot take it off, Madame. My hair is part of my personality. It is integrated.”

“Then dis­integrate it, Kaspar. Not now—­it is too complicated—­but for tomorrow morning. Otherwise nothing. What have you got at the theater for me?”

“Othello, Madame.”

“I shall look at you again in the morning. Who is playing him?”

“Leiser, Madame. The greatest Moor we have.”

“We shall see.”

Next morning at eight o’clock to the minute Herr Kaspar reappeared for duty, his crossed keys of office glinting like campaign medals from his lapels. And on his head, triumphantly, the emblem of his insurrection. All morning long a precarious hush prevailed in the lobby. The hotel guests, like the famous geese of Freiburg, said Frau Loring, were aware of the imminent explosion even if they did not know its cause. At midday, which was her hour, Madame Archetti emerged from the Tower Suite and descended the staircase on the arm of her prevailing swain, a promising young barber from Graz.

“But where is Herr Kaspar this morning?” she asked in Herr Kaspar’s vague direction.

“He is behind his desk and at your service as ever, Madame,” Herr Kaspar replied in a voice that, to those who heard it, echoed for all time in the halls of freedom. “He has the tickets for the Moor.”

“I see no Herr Kaspar,” Madame Archetti informed her escort. “I see hair. Tell him, please, we shall miss him in his obscurity.”

“It was his trumpet blast,” Frau Loring liked to end. “From the moment that woman entered the hotel, Herr Kaspar could not escape his destiny.”

And tonight is my trumpet blast, thought Jonathan, waiting to receive the worst man in the world.

Jonathan was worrying about his hands, which as usual were immaculate and had been so ever since he had been the subject of spot fingernail inspections at his army school. At first he had kept them curled at the embroidered seams of his trousers, in the posture drummed into him on the parade ground. But now, without his noticing, they had linked themselves behind his back with a handkerchief twisted between them, for he was painfully conscious of the sweat that kept forming in his palms.

Transferring his worries to his smile, Jonathan checked it for faults in the mirrors either side of him. It was the Smile of Gracious Welcome that he had worked up during his years in the profession: a sympathetic smile but a prudently restrained one, for he had learned by experience that guests, particularly very rich ones, could be tetchy after a demanding journey, and the last thing they needed on arrival was a night manager grinning at them like a chimpanzee.

His smile, he established, was still in place. His feeling of nausea had not dislodged it. His tie, self-­tied as a signal to the better guests, was pleasingly insouciant. His hair, though nothing to match Herr Kaspar’s, was his own and, as usual, in the sleekest order.

It’s a different Roper, he announced inside his head. Complete misunderstanding, whole thing. Nothing whatever to do with her. There are two, both traders, both living in Nassau. But Jonathan had been going back and forth through that hoop ever since half past five this afternoon, when, arriving in his office for duty, he had heedlessly picked up Herr Strippli’s list of the evening’s arrivals and seen the name Roper in electronic capitals, screaming at him from the computer printout.

Roper R. O., party of sixteen, arriving from Athens by private jet, expected 2130 hours, followed by Herr Strippli’s hysterical annotation: “V VIP!” Jonathan called up the public relations file on his screen. Roper R. O. and the letters OBG after him, which was the coy house code for bodyguard, O standing for “official” and official meaning licensed by the Swiss federal authorities to bear a sidearm. Roper, OBG, business address Ironbrand Land, Ore & Precious Metals Company of Nassau, home address a box number in Nassau, credit assured by the Zurich Bank of Somebody. So how many Ropers were there in the world with the initial R and firms called Ironbrand? How many more coincidences had God got up His sleeve?

“Who on earth is Roper R. O. when he’s at home?” Jonathan asked of Herr Strippli in German while he affected to busy himself with other things.

Meet the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931. After attending the universities of Bern and Oxford, he taught at Eton and spent five years in the British Foreign Service. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, his third book, secured him a worldwide reputation. He divides his time between England and the Continent.

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Night Manager 2.7 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I know that LeCarre is supposed to be the master of the genre and I know I'm going to enrage a lot of people, but if I can protect just one person from suffering through what I did with this book, it will be worth it. I started this book while on jury duty and almost abandoned in favor of reading 8 month old magazines left by previous jurors. The entire way through this book, I was at a decision point to read on or punt. I finished it, but wished I hadn't. In the first 30 pages he introduced about 25 characters, all of which were important. I was never sure if they were in Switzerland or Egypt (seriously), the characters that you were supposed to like were unlikable and the story never resolves itself. LeCarre was asleep at the wheel on this one. I did enjoy "Our Game", so I know that he has a good writer, but this is an awful book in my not my opinion, it inherently sucks. Sorry fans. If you're on the fence about reading this one move on. I do read a lot of the genre and there are plenty of good books out there, including some by Mr. LeCarre.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Le Carre is one of the best writers ever. period. But his style is not everyman's cup o tea ("glass o shampoo" as Roper would put it). You have to like his type and know several of his other books (Our Game, Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy, The Little Drummer Girl, The Secret Pilgrim, etc). jonathan Pine is the most intreaging character I have read and related to, and maybe that is the secret for my love for it. And he is the only writer I know who writes all of his books BY HAND. Knowing them, that's quite a feat. So give him a break. /Alec
Anonymous 5 months ago
Avoid the Night Manager novel. It is boring, difficult to keep up with the characters, and does not have an ending. I wish I had followed my instincts and not finished it. Forego this book and watch the miniseries. I do not see how anything in this book this book could be considered thrilling. Plot is convoluted and confusing. This is just a bad novel at so many levels.
bjdoureaux 4 months ago
Richard Roper is the worst man in the world. An arms dealer and a drug smuggler, he is also charming, cunning, and dangerous. Jonathan Pine, ex-British soldier and hotel night manager, has his reasons for wanting to take Roper down. With the help of a select few in British Intelligence, Pine goes deep under cover into Roper’s organization. Can he get close to Roper without losing himself, or his life? I decided to read this book because I watched, and greatly enjoyed, the BBC/AMC miniseries that was based on it. Sadly, I did not enjoy the book, which ended up having many differences. I won’t go into detail about the television series accept to say that the changes made were, in my opinion, for the better. The book was very slow. There were characters and information that were unnecessary to the plot and did nothing to move the story forward. The narration shifts a few times from past tense to present tense, and I had to stop reading and go back to make sure I wasn’t missing something. There seemed to be no reason for the change. The interesting parts of the story often felt clipped or rushed, where the technical/political portions seemed to drag and have more information than necessary. A few warnings: harsh language, sex, violence (these apply to the miniseries as well) Overall, I wouldn’t suggest this one. This is one of those rare occasions where the book was not better.
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