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John Le Carre
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Our Kind Of Traitor
hardcover
478 pages
Perry and Gail, a 20-something professional couple, are vacationing in Antigua when they are forcefully befriended by a money-laundering Russian mobster, Dima, and his extended entourage. Dima wants asylum in Britain for himself and his family in exchange for evidence incriminating his co-conspirators in European high society and the British parliament. Perry and Gail take their story to the British Secret Service, who improbably put them to work getting the issue resolved.

The problem with the novel isn't spy clichés. (If you read genre fiction, you are well acquainted with the clichés and have made your peace with them. They do not hamper your reading, most of the time.) The problem isn't staleness. The problem is badness. This just isn't a well-written novel. It is profoundly boring. There is very little actual action; much of it is taken up with Perry and Gail recounting to the Brits what Dima has told them, and then the Brits listening to Dima's audiotapes and watching secret videotapes. This is followed by a long section involving internecine power struggles in the spy management apparatus over how to deal with Dima. Everything seems to be at a remove from any action, until a scene at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, where Gail, Perry, Dima, and Dima's criminal posse and associates all watch Roger Federer duke it out with Robin Soderling for the 2009 French Open championship. Even this scene is quite boring. What tension there is is limited to about the last 10 pages, and a dramatic ending.
7/10
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