Crime Time who offered to send me the copy he had read. Otherwise, who knows when I would have gotten around to reading this book.
Magnus Pym, a British spy assigned to an important post in Vienna, has disappeared. After he gets a call that his father has died, he leaves for the funeral in London, but he doesn't return when expected. His wife is worried but his fellow agents are even more concerned and mount a search for him. Being the gifted spy that he is, Pym easily eludes them for the majority of the book.
A Perfect Spy by John le Carré revolves around Magnus Pym's relationship with his father, Rick, a con man who uses everyone in his life to achieve his own goals. Pym's mother died when he was young, so Rick has been the major influence in his life.
Pym's wife and son also feature prominently, as do various people in the espionage and diplomatic community who want him located as soon as possible. Le Carré keeps the reader guessing throughout. Where has Pym disappeared to and why? My sympathies were with the young Magnus, mostly ignored by his father but occasionally useful to him, and with Mary and Tom, his wife and son.
The tale is told in alternating chapters. One chapter is Magnus writing the story of his life for his son, the next puts the focus on a family member or a colleague who is attempting to track him down. More than one reviewer talked about being initially put off by this structure, but this is exactly the type of book I love. And the alternating chapters serve a purpose. The story Magnus tells us is complex and illuminating but can also be a bit overwhelming; the switch to the pursuit of the missing spy gives a needed change of pace.
Some reviewers say that A Perfect Spy is not espionage fiction so much as it is the story of a man's life (and his relationship with his father). However, there is plenty of spycraft going on in this book, enough to keep me happy.
This story is mostly autobiographical. John le Carré's mother died when he was very young and his father was a con man who spent some time in prison.
Publisher: Bantam, 1987. Orig. pub. 1986.
Length: 517 pages
Setting: UK, Vienna
Genre: Espionage fiction
Source: A gift.