Friday, October 27, 2006

The Mission Song - John Le Carre

The Mission Song
John Le Carré
Little, Brown and Company

Political Thriller

Bruno Salvador, Salvo to his friends, has a talent he jealously guards and in which he takes great pride. Salvo’s genius is for languages. Born in the Congo, Salvo attended a school set up to educate the sons of misbehaving priests. It was there that he first discovered his facility with words. Being the product of a Congolese woman and an Irish Catholic priest left him with something of a confused personal identity. As an adult, Salvo landed in London and further muddied his cultural waters (in his estimation) by marrying a white journalist.

Salvo makes his living as an interpreter, which is, as he never fails to point out, several steps in skill above a translator. He works for whatever corporations or law firms care to hire him. It’s when he goes to work for the British Secret Service, eavesdropping on sensitive phone conversations, that the story really begins. His talent lands him an assignment interpreting for a highly secret meeting between Congolese warlords and Western finance people. During the course of the meeting, Salvo hears some things he shouldn’t, and is drawn into an international web of conspiracy and intrigue.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this novel is that all of the players, on all sides of the issues, are guilty, to one degree or another. Even Salvo, the narrator, is tainted by his adulterous affair. It’s the degrees of guilt and complicity that make this a cut above the usual global conspiracy novel. Obvious parallels will be drawn between this novel and THE CONSTANT GARDENER, but this novel, for all the seriousness of it’s subject, had something of a lighter feel. He’s been writing for decades, but this author is still at the top of his game.

Rating: 8 ½
September 2006
ISBN# 0-316-01674-8 (hardcover)


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