The Night Manager, by John Le Carre

My Copy: 9780399594007 (image courtesy aliexpress.com)

DISCLAIMER: As I am an annoying book-purist 99% of the time, I have not seen the AMC miniseries beyond promo sneak peeks, so this is about the book. Butt’s covered, moving on.

The Night Manager is a surprising story in the post-Cold War world, where the power-vacuum of major war players is being filled by arms dealers while the big powers play like all is well. However, stuck in the middle is Jonathan Pine, the night manager of an Egyptian hotel who falls for a woman named Sophie. She ends up in danger because of what she knows about her boyfriend and his new associate, Richard Onslow Roper. When an arm of British Intelligence wants to follow up on the information Pine provided–too late to help Sophie–Pine volunteers to go in deep, expose Roper for the monster he is, and get revenge.

I have to say, as much as I was eager to read this story, it did take me a bit to get into it. The timeline jumps around quite a bit in the beginning, and the location transitions are sometimes a bit abrupt. But you do get absorbed in the comings and goings. You realize some of this is memory coming out and interfering in the present, and because it’s consistently done, it works.

The first third of the book takes its time getting us into this world, the world of spy recruitment and cover-building. I thought it was fascinating, and a little scary, and I was waiting and wondering if something would go wrong. It makes me appreciate spy-craft more, actually, .

The characterization I loved. Jonathan Pine is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in fiction. He’s not perfect by a long-shot, a loner with fears and convictions, with issues and desires–some conflicting–and thrust too deep in a world not of his own making. This is the story of a “watcher” who became an active spy. The Night Manager delves deep into this character of a nice, patriotic young man with vengeance on the mind, who learns how to become a new person and essentially play spy…this story really puts you in his place. I felt his turmoil and anger, and even fear on his behalf in several places.

Of all the characters, I admit I couldn’t get a handle on Roper much, but then again, maybe that’s the point. The way he’s described, and the way it’s played out, it reminds me a bit of Tony DiNozzo from “NCIS”–full of charm and can talk to anyone, leave a great impression, but if you think hard, you come away not knowing squat about the real man. That’s what Roper feels like to read. Considering the guy’s an international arms dealer and slippery as an eel, that’s a good quality for this story. I’ll be reading it again to see if I pick anything else up eventually.

Also the playing, negotiating, and movement of Pine’s handlers (and enemies) is just nuts, for lack of a better words, especially Leonard Burr, who recruited Pine and is trying so damned hard to make sure the man doesn’t end up dead. I found myself hurtling through the last third of the book, not wanting to put it down, wanting to know what was going to happen with Pine, with Jed, Roper, Burr, Corky, and the rest. There are some characters you’d love to hate, and I sure did.

Now, the ending itself, I’m not too sure on. I mean, it’s an ending, but may disappoint some people. Frankly, The Night Manager made me hang on and even knowing the ending, I’ll read it again because I don’t give a damn. More Jonathan Pine, please.

And after reading this book, I have to say, just from the promos and little “sneak peeks” that were shown on AMC, they were pitch perfect in their casting, so this will be enjoyable as hell to watch, even with a different ending than the book (which is what I’ve heard).

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What is it with Le Carre’s works getting many of my fave/admired British actors to portray the characters? I guess it means they read the books and have great taste. Good deal for us!

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