This brilliant narrative by John le Carre features the capital of West Germany- Bonn- as the provincial small town.
The plot is set in the 1970’s . Leo Harting, a low level temporary administrative officer in the British Embassy in Bonn is missing and gone with him is the Green File which contains the minutes of the meeting for deciding whether West Germany should join the Common Market and NATO.
In comes Alan Turner, a hard nosed, no bullshit type agent from the British Foreign Office to investigate the matter and find out whether Harting was really a double agent as he is accused of being or whether he is an innocent.
Along the course of his investigations,Turner finds himself oscillating between whether to consider Harting as a turncloak or an innocent man.His case is not helped when he finds that the other officers in the Embassy are either not willing to talk about Harting or are trying to shield him. Bradfield, the security officer at the Embassy is trying to shield him. Jenny Pargiter has been his lover and also has been guilty of providing him the keys to the registry. Hazel Bradfield has also been his lover and confidante of sorts.
The main purpose of Leo’s disappearance is unearthed when Alan stumbles upon his secret room and discovers that Harting has not been a turncloak; he has been secretly building up a case against Klaus Karfield, a right wing politician who it seems was the administrative officer of a secret chemical factory where 31 Jews were gassed. Harting was the case officer then and was sad that he could not catch the culprit. Now, charming his way through the Embassy, he gets hold of all the necessary files, does his research and when he has all the proof that he needs, goes to assassinate Karfield at one of his speeches. Only the thorn in his side is that, Siebkron , the Interior Minister, is a few paces ahead of Leo; a sympathiser of Karfield, and hence before Leo can kill his man, Siebkron kills Leo instead.
The story is simple; the plot straightforward; but in le Carre’s masterful hands , this simple plot is transformed into an exquisite narrative.
Read it for Leo’ sake;read it for Turner’s sake; or simply, just read it because it’s le Carre.