West Germany, a simmering cauldron of radical protests, has produced a new danger to Britain: Karfeld, menacing leader of the opposition. At the same time Leo Harting, a Second Secretary in the British Embassy, has gone missing - along with more than forty Confidential embassy files. Alan Turner of the Foreign Office must travel to Bonn to recover ...
West Germany, a simmering cauldron of radical protests, has produced a new danger to Britain: Karfeld, menacing leader of the opposition. At the same time Leo Harting, a Second Secretary in the British Embassy, has gone missing - along with more than forty Confidential embassy files. Alan Turner of the Foreign Office must travel to Bonn to recover them, facing riots, Nazi secrets and the delicate machinations of an unstable Europe in the throes of the Cold War. As Turner gets closer to the truth of Harting's disappearance, he will discover that the face of International relations - and the attentions of the British Ministry itself - is uglier that he could possibly have imagined.
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This novel is excellent on the effect of class division on the British secret service, the author's specialism. Some of the prose is of the highest standard. The depiction of Britain searching for a world role after losing an empire (but not the now-outmoded mores of empire-mindedness) is masterly and still resonates in 21st century politics, only nowadays the dolefulness is beginning to be shared by the US itself as it eyes China and sees its own demise. But a neo-fascist movement in post-war West Germany (though the rehabilitation of former Nazis in the Federal Republic has been documented chillingly enough by Ivor Montagu and others) is taken way beyond documented fact when le Carre pretends the movement offers some kind of rapprochement with the Communist east, or even (a dark hint only ) that Moscow or the former GDR would have been even slightly interested in such an alliance. Germany is where the real-life spy whose pen-name is le Carre cut his teeth if that was not a little earlier when he spied on British workers (MI5 not such a different hat from MI6); but the Communists had to be the enemy so that was how the plot was voluntarily, compliantly or profitably slanted. Will the real story of East and West Germany ever be told? History is always told by the victors, in this case triumphant Capitalism that naively believes it has buried Socialism for ever. I wonder whether even le Carre, who nowadays writes revealingly on the rapacity of corporate Capital, quite believes that, in his heart of hearts.
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