Book review: A Delicate Truth a very British le Carré thriller

In John le Carré's A Delicate Truth, a career diplomat stumbles across a murky plot to snatch a much-wanted Islamist arms dealer.

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A Delicate Truth
John le Carré

Nobody does the machinations, double-dealing and backstabbing behind the Whitehall façade quite as well as John le Carré. As Tony Blair's government takes the country into Iraq to nullify weapons of mass destruction, career diplomat Toby Bell begins his climb up the ladder: Berlin, Madrid, Cairo - eventually to become private secretary to Fergus Quinn, the junior minister of state to the Foreign Office.

While in the service of the frankly underhand Quinn, he stumbles across a murky plot to snatch a much-wanted Islamist arms dealer, who is in Gibraltar on a deal. British forces are involved, as are a few American mercenaries.

Three years later, the crows come home to roost and Toby, invited to visit Sir Christopher Probyn, a retired diplomat, discovers that his early fears about the mission to Gibraltar were not unfounded.

Faced with the choice of following his conscience or staying loyal to the questionable demands of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's sense of duty, Toby does the right thing. All very British, of course, but then this is John le Carré.

* Nigel Walsh