Three of this fall's most talked-about novels
2. "Our Kind of Traitor," by John le Carré
Maybe they should have sprung for a ski vacation? It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, but Perry Makepiece and Gail Perkins get more than they bargained for from their trip to Antigua in John le Carré's terrific thriller Our Kind of Traitor. Perry plays one game of tennis with a Russian named Dima, and the couple are suddenly being interrogated by British Secret Service in a Bloomsbury basement. The taut opening section, in which what happened on vacation to the “innocents abroad” unspools during the all-night questioning, brilliantly showcases how bright, beautiful, and truly unprepared Gail and Perry are for the world into which they've blundered.
“Our Kind of Traitor” is full of le Carré's trademark wry intelligence. When Perry asks why he should take the Secret Service's word that everything is going to be all right, he asks, “On the strength of what? Aren't you supposed to be the gentlemen who lie for the good of their country?”
“That's diplomats. We're not gentlemen.”
“So you lie to save your hides?” Perry challenges.
“That's politicians. Different game entirely.”
After 50 years, literature's spymaster deserves his own genre, but “Our Kind of Traitor” is an especially accessible entry for le Carré newcomers, since his main characters also have no idea what's going on.