About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Night Manager by John Le Carré

The Night Manager by John Le Carré – While reading the biography of Le Carré I realized it had been several years since I had read any of his books. In the biography each of his 23 books is discussed in some detail. Wanting to both read one of his books I had not read and see how my reaction compared to the reviews when it was published I avoided reading in the biography about The Night Manager which had been sitting on a shelf above my computer for some years. My next post will look at how Le Carré wrote the book and reaction to the book. To achieve my goals for these posts they will, contrary to my custom, have multiple spoilers. 

Upon starting the book I was immediately struck by Le Carré’s vivid and detailed descriptions of locations. I had not appreciated before reading the biography how he traveled to the places about which he was writing to experience them in a detail not possible by photographs, videos and words. Unlike most of his books The Night Manager is mainly set in the Caribbean, Central and South America. 

As always Le Carré has a compelling main character. Few authors can draw that character in but one paragraph:

Jonathan Pine, orphaned only son of a cancer-ridden German beauty and a British sergeant of infantry killed in one of his country’s many postcolonial wars, graduate of a rainy archipelago of orphanages, foster homes, half-mothers, cadet units and training camps, sometime army wolf-child with a special unit in even rainier Northern Ireland, caterer, chef, itinerant hotelier, perpetual escapee from emotional entanglements, volunteer, collector of other people’s languages, self-exiled creature of the night and sailor without a destination, sat in his sanitary Swiss office behind reception, smoking his third unusual cigarette and pondering the sage words of the hotel’s revered founder that hung framed alongside his imposing sepia photograph.

He is working at the Hotel Meister Palace in Zurich one of the elite hotels of the world. As night manager he is the unobtrusive figure in charge during the quiet dark hours. He is suave and capable.

Previously he had worked in hotel administration in Cairo where he had been entrusted with an envelope of secret information on weapons for sale by Sophie, the older beautiful mistress of an Egyptian playboy. Jonathan betrays her by sharing the information, which could affect regional stability, with a British intelligence officer. Sophie is killed and Jonathan left with a punishing guilt.

Into the Hotel Meiser sweeps Richard “Dickie” Onslow Roper and his entourage including the young and beautiful Jeds.

Roper was the international arms dealer behind the arms deal that resulted in Sophie’s death. Based in the Bahamas he roams the world making deals but his role, obscured by so many levels of intermediaries, can never be proven.

While his façade is unruffled Jonathan is driven by seeing Roper to contact a different of British intelligence. He is recruited to undertake a penetration of Roper’s operations.

An elaborate background is created and lived by Jonathan. It includes time in Cornwall. After learning from the biography that the Cornish coast has been Le Carre’s home for decades I understand why the portrayal of life in Cornwall was so convincing.

At the proper moment a spectacular entry is created for Jonathan.

Written in 1993 the Cold War has recently ended. Roper is no longer involved in selling weapons to the many groups around the world willing to take up arms in support of the global ambitions of America or the U.S.S.R.

With the flexibility of the amoral Roper has turned his attentions to making a massive deal that would supply modern weaponry to the drug cartels of Colombia. In return, payment will be made in cocaine.

Yet there is disharmony within the intelligence agencies of America and Britain over the covert operation. Their intrigues are a constant unknown backdrop to Jonathan’s efforts.

It is a thriller that is unashamedly complex.  It is less opaque than some of Le Carré’s plots. What stands out is how rare it is to have a contemporary thriller that challenges a reader.

As with some  of Le Carré’s books the book drags through the middle and could have been shortened. Once the threads start coming together the pace accelerates, even pounding to the conclusion.

The Night Manager differs from current thrillers in that it has complex, even likeable at times, bad guys

The ending is as close as Le Carré gets to Hollywood but he cannot go all the way. The bad guys do not get their just desserts but there is no aching end for the hero. His survival was quite a surprise to me. I was dreading another bleak Le Carré conclusion. I admit I was glad as did not want Jonathan killed. It also reflects my concern for the character ahead of the success of evil. It was a very good but not great book. I am off to see how it was created and received.

Le Carré, John – (2000) - Single & Single; (2001) - The Constant Gardner (Second best fiction of 2001); (2005) - Absolute Friends (Best fiction in 2005); (2008) - Mission Song; (2009) – A Most Wanted Man; (2016) - A Quartet of John Le Carré

Sisman, Adam - (2016) - John Le Carré 
 and John Le Carré as Real Life Spy


  1. Bill, I like le Carre's writing style for its simplicity and lucidity, which makes even his intricate plots eminently readable.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. While I enjoy Le Carre's writing style I could not call it simple.

  2. I agree with you, Bill, about le Carré's skill at evoking a place. He goes beyond just physical description, so that the reader really feels s/he is there. And I do like the fact that his thrillers give the reader something to think about. They aren't superficial at all. You're right about the way he creates amoral characters, too.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. After reading The Night Manager I wished more writers made comparable efforts on the locations in their fiction.