“I wanted people to get a good laugh out of it,” le Carré says of his new, 25th novel. Maybe I’m the wrong kind of reader; I didn’t chuckle even once, but I still enjoyed this meticulously crafted spy novel suffused with politics of all sorts. Protagonist Anatoly—“Nat” for short—is a middle-aged veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, who accepts command of a minor MI6 substation rather than be put out to pasture. Soon after, he backs an operation planned by his deputy and involving a Ukrainian oligarch linked to “pro-Putin elements” in Kiev…only to see that project abruptly cancelled and his number two quit. Meanwhile, a mysterious young man named Ed, quick to vent his antipathy toward Brexit and Donald Trump, strikes up a badminton-playing friendship with Nat, and becomes unexpectedly involved in the case of a Russian defector under Nat’s watch. Agent’s oddly sanguine ending shows le Carré’s growing ambivalence toward espionage, but his writing and plotting skills remain intact. Nothing funny about that.
—Jeff, Madison Books, Seattle, WA