1 October 2010

Review: SINGLE & SINGLE, John Le Carre - audio

Originally published 1999, Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 0-340-73897-9 / 978-0-340-73897-9
Reading time - approx 12 hrs 15 mins
Released on audible.com Feb 2010 

Publisher's Summary:
A corporate lawyer from the House of Single &Single is shot dead on a Turkish hillside for crimes that he does not understand. A children’s entertainer in Devon is hauled to his local bank late at night to explain a monumental influx of cash. A Russian freighter is arrested in the Black Sea....
The logical connection of these events and more is one of the many pleasures of this story of love, deceit, family and the triumph of humanity.

Single & Single are a firm of financial enablers. Among their clients are the Russian capitalists, the Orlov family, out to make quick roubles. Their biggest scheme so far is the sale of "clean caucasoid" blood to the West. Money managers, the House of Single, Tiger Single, the senior partner, with his son Oliver, are set to reap a fortune. However events impair the smooth flow of cash, and the Russian partners turn to a new means of profit-making, drugs. As a lawyer in a financial management organisation, Oliver draws the line at drugs. It jeopardizes the future of the firm, and his own. He informs on his father to British government officials in the hope of cutting a deal. It takes four years for the government to act, and then their actions result in Tiger's disappearance. But it seems that Oliver was not the only one to betray Tiger.

This was not an easy story to listen to, although narrated extremely well by Michael Jayston. The event with which the story opens, the death of Albert Wincer, really comes midway in the plot, and from that point on Le Carre feeds the reader tidbits, almost in the style of jigsaw puzzle pieces plucked randomly from the box. Sometimes the bits fit, and at other times we have to mentally set them aside for later use. If this was a held-in-the-hand paper book the reader would have the advantage of flipping backwards and forwards, re-reading bits, but you can't do that with an audio.

One of the things that other reviewers have commented on is the fact that at the end it felt as if Le Carre could not get shut of the reader quickly enough. However I had made up my mind about my rating well before that. Perhaps I would have liked it better if I was "reading" it in another format. I may not have had the continuity problems that I referred to earlier. The story did have redeeming features: interesting characters, and good exploration of the relationships between them.

My rating: 4.0

In a recent Weekly Geeks post about the Overly Critical Reader I wrote about how most of my reading is the result of recommendations. However the audio books that I choose are generally the exception to that rule. To select them I browse audible.com and choose titles in a different way, often based on author. So they tend to be books that I might not otherwise read.


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thoughtful, terrific review as always. You really do point out one of the problems with audio books; it's hard to look back and check a detail, etc..

Kerrie said...

Margot, I think the other thing is that an audio version determines the pace at which you read the book. I'm sure it takes longer to listen than to read, and so you are reluctant to listen to bits for a second time.


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