BOOKS / In the lists

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John Le Carre is such a staple of the bestseller lists that we've come to take it almost for granted that he'll turn up with each book: in fact, it's quite a feat, when you consider the length of time he's been at it, and the nimbleness with which he responds to the vaguaries of real-life politics (the fall of the Wall, after all, meant the fall of the Cold War thriller). In The Night Manager he finds new work for old spies, at the same time as dipping into the world of arms-for-Iraq and Iran-Contra. But never fear. Disillusioned ex-spook Jonathan Pine is the le Carre hero of old: wounded in love, emotionally repressed and by turns sentimental and ruthless. As the story opens, he has sought anonymity and a quiet life by becoming night manager of a luxury Swiss hotel, but the unexpected arrival of arms dealer Roper, 'the worst man in the world', as an overnight guest stirs Pine's conscience and he volunteers to help British intelligence trap Roper. If Pine is a few dead-letter-drops short of the great days of Leamas and Smiley, this remains a fine, gripping read.