For more than a generation, British author John Le CarrŽ has written spy novels that both define and transcend the genre. His latest book, Absolute Friends, is his best work in years, another impassioned portrayal of the forces that drive global politics. Ted Mundy is a thistledown of a man, blown wherever fate and his own whims take him. His resume is endless: ex-'60s radical, failed writer, businessman, schoolteacher, spy. It is this last role that comes back to haunt him with the reappearance of his old friend and fellow traveler, Sasha, who offers financial security and a chance to fight the good fight once again. A mysterious benefactor wants to finance a school that will counter what he sees as propaganda supporting the war in Iraq. Mundy eventually realizes, however, that some things can look too good to be true. Absolute Friends is an absolute page-turner, yet in some ways, plot is superfluous to this novel. We are drawn into the plot because we care about the characters, from the simply drawn minor actors to the meticulously assembled protagonist. Absolute Friends is as much an examination of the human soul as it is an intriguing commentary on 21st century conflicts.


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