5 March 2021

Review: AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD, John Le Carre - audio book

  • this audio book from Audible.com
  • Narrated by: John le Carré
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-17-19
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd, 2019

Synopsis (Audible)

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Listed in Times Books of the Year, New Statesman Book of the Year, Guardian Books of the Year, Sunday Times Books of the Year, TLS Books of the Year, Daily Mail Books of the Year, Mail on Sunday's Best Books of the Year, Apple Best books of 2019

My take

This audio book comes with an impressive list of credentials, not the least that it is read by the author. 

Nat is fully expecting to be retired but management has other ideas. There is a Russian agent, a sleeper, in London whom the service is fully expecting to be activated any time soon, and he becomes Nat's responsibility. Nat decides he will hand him over to "young" Florence, one of his brightest agent-runners. Meanwhile someone turns up at the Badminton club who wants to play Nat, the club champion despite his age. Ed wants to play him now, without having to go through the "ladder" system. Ed is taciturn most of the time but it is clear he has strong political views, and is keen to do something about them. He has no idea that Nat is a spy.

And then things begin to go a bit pear-shaped when Florence storms out, and rumours abound of a new double agent in London.

An interesting story with several puzzles to solve. Le Carre does an impressive job as narrator, particularly considering his age when he produced it. He died in 2020 at the age of 89.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

4.0, SINGLE & SINGLE
3.5, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR - abridged audio

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