Timothy Cranmer is a former spy handler, put out to pasture at the end of the Cold War. Larry Pettifer, left-wing academic and Byronic espouser of lost causes, was not only Cranmer’s best double agent but a friend and rival since childhood.
Now Larry has gone missing, as has 37 million pounds and Cranmer’s young mistress, Emma. Cranmer is thought to be an accomplice. Cranmer must find Larry. The trail will take him deep in the Caucasus.
The book moves slowly through the first half, until Cranmer finally decides to take action and leads British Intelligence on a merry chase. Cranmer, our narrator, reveals himself to be emotionally paralysed until his middle-aged affair with Emma. Larry, never seen directly, is shown to be just as immature in his own quixotic, impulsive way.
Not le Carré’s best work, but insightful about his characters and post-Cold War politics.