Art Review

‘A Most Wanted Man’ by John Le Carre

By Mike Sullivan

 The Bottom Line

Like The Mission Song, I have a feeling that A Most Wanted Man will warrant a 4 star rating a month later as the tale continues to grow in impact and relevance in my mind. But like many of the modern era spies that John Le Carre writes about, my current mindset keeps me from changing my mind. Le Carre continues to build his legacy as a master storyteller of the spy genre with A Most Wanted Man, a new spy tale bringing together the worlds of a Muslim Chechen refugee, a British banker, and a German lawyer as they try to survive a maze of morality, patriotism, and mercy.


  • A plethora of memorable characters drawn with insight and compassion
  • The interrelationships of multiple international agencies trying to determine the value of a life
  • The moral chess game of individuals determining where his or her loyalty lies
  • A writing style that is patient, confident, and skilled in skewing the next plot turn


  • While character sketching and development is strong, some asides seem unnecessary
  • After a strong beginning, anticipation wanes in the middle until the story accelerates


  • ‘A Most Wanted Man’ was published in October 2008.
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • 336 Pages


A Muslim family receives into their home a mysterious young guest with a broken past. A British banker receives a phone call about an old account in his family’s bank that he wishes to remain secret. A German lawyer connects them. International spies with various loyalties watch these three people’s interactions in order to determine what is the “right” course of action.


In a war on terror, the target moves and skews depending on who is taking aim. In John Le Carre’s new novel, three people come into scope due to the desire of one man, a Muslim Chechen by the name of Issa, to become a doctor, not an extremist. But due to his sordid yet necessary means to leave his homeland and seek an education in Western Europe, he is being watched and is going to change the lives of everyone he comes into contact with.

Tommy Brue is one of those lives. His family’s bank holds an account in the name of Issa’s father, a brutal military leader who accumulated wealth through inhumane practices. At first, Tommy wishes to deal with Issa only to keep his father’s immoral connection secret. But when Issa’s assigned lawyer, a beautiful young German named Annabel Richter, meets to discuss the account, sympathies and alliances between all three will grow as the spies watching them determine how to use this association for the “greater good” of England, Germany, or the US.

This novel is a slow burn, but the flame is hot and relevant. While the political chess game of learning how to combat the war on terror continues to play, Le Carre has shaped another fascinating tale of intrigue and espionage around people that feel as real as a neighbor.


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