Silverview, John le Carré’s final book, has all the elements that made his earlier books such fantastic reads. It has former spies, current spies, hard-nosed cynics, naive innocents, betrayed husbands, faithless wives, several plot strands that come together (mostly) and – did I mention the spies? It includes the author’s trademark dislike of the Americans, especially their intelligence services, which places him in the long tradition of many British writers, most famously Graham Greene.
The book appears at the same as the launch of the new James Bond film and serves as a reminder of how very differently Ian Fleming and le Carré approached their subjects. Both men had served in the British intelligence services, and both participated to one degree or another in the Cold War. But while to Fleming, British spies like Bond were defending civilisation as we know it against a ruthless and immoral enemy, le Carré’s world is much greyer one, a world in which it is hard to tell the heroes from the villains (if indeed there heroes and villains at all).
No, it is not his finest work. But one is instantly immersed in a familiar world, and the author still knew — in his 90s — how to tell a great story.