Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him.
At 88, novelist John le Carré continues to turn out books that writers of any younger age would kill to publish ... Before turning to What Happens Next, a word about le Carré's prose: Not only does it hold the coiled energy of a much younger writer, it fits the bitter, angry narrator's voice exceptionally well. That's important, because Agent Running in the Field relies less on action than some le Carré titles, and many other spy novels, and more on dialogue. If the author obsesses about betrayal, his mechanism for that obsession is the conversation ... The pre-publication press release tells us this is le Carré's 'Brexit novel,' but that diminishes a novel that may be a portrait in miniature of modern spies, but is in miniature as detailed and astonishing and entertaining as anything in its genre today.
... Carré [is] doubling down on his renowned and suspenseful opacity with an urgent first-person narrative that ranges from a Battersea health club to a hunting lodge in Karlovy Vary ... neither a hissy fit nor a high-noon shootout, but an autumnal threnody that reconciles rage to storytelling ... this new book demands the tribute of a rereading as much as a reading ... Publishing such a thriller at the age of 88, a feat of imaginative stamina that surpasses the tenacity of his idol Graham Greene, le Carré confirms his place at the head of his profession. Not many writers half his age could so successfully put Goethe and Sting into the same sentence. This may not be the finest novel he has ever written – Tinker, Tailor and the other great novels of the 1970s remain in a league of their own – but it’s still touched with his magic. His readers will know from his first line that they are in the presence of a great enchanter ... Le Carré delivers a tale for our times, replete with the classic seasoning of betrayal, secret state shenanigans and sad-eyed human frailty, all baked into an oven-hot contemporary thriller that’s partly inspired by the machinations of 21st-century Ukraine, today more than ever the fatal crossroads of great power politics ... right on the money, in psychology as much as politics, a demonstration of the British spy thriller at its unputdownable best ... Le Carré has not lost his master storyteller’s command of momentum.