reviewed by WR
“My only wise words of advice … A radical’s a radical. Doesn’t matter whether he’s an ex-Communist or an ex anything else. He’s the same chap. You don’t change your reasoning just because your conclusion’s changed. Human nature.”
Before succumbing to cancer, a worried wife performs one last act of duty to the Service and couriers a secret warning. As Head of Domestic Security, Stewart Proctor must decide whether it’s nothing more than a private marital spat or a revelation of treason that requires follow-up.
“No more air-conditioned treadmills, sunlamps and saunas for him, thank you; no more alcoholic revels to celebrate another dicey, socially useless financial coup, and the one-night stands that inevitably follow. London man is dead.”
Julian Lawndsley has cast off the shackles of the rat race in the City’s financial corridors for a simpler life in a small seaside town in East Anglia. Edward Avon pops up at Julian’s new bookstore. In his rich and compelling voice, slightly tinged with a foreign cadence, Edward proclaims a friendship with Julian’s father during their public school days. Edward is married to Deborah whose family estate, Silverview, is perched at the far side of town and which has a view of the sea. And in short order with subtle maneuvering, Edward soon entangles Julian into his schemes.
“[Julian] was learning to see the entire Avon clan and its offshoots as being united, not in the secrets they shared, but in the secrets they kept from one another.”
John le Carré died in December 2020, and he had left behind a slim unpublished manuscript, Silverview. In the afterword, the author’s son stated that this draft had needed little editing as it had been repeatedly worked upon and then put aside since 2013. Compared with the complex plots of the George Smiley trilogy, Silverview is a straightforward tale of spies, thwarted foreign policies, and a frustrated Intelligence Service which may have further muddied the waters.
“The truth is, old boy … we didn’t do much to alter the course of human history, did we? As one old spy to another, I reckon I’d have been more use running a boys’ club.”
After reading nearly a dozen le Carré novels, his touch is apparent in the cynicism and in the less than adulatory assessment of the Service which dissembles its goals from its own people. Silverview is just as polished as Agent Running in the Field, the last book published while le Carré was alive, though it lacks the passion that fueled the acerbic wit of the latter. Most of this story is viewed in the rearview mirror as key events had transpired during the Cold War and then in the Bosnian War. Silverview is far from le Carré’s best but it’s still an appreciated parting memento from the great espionage writer.