Full disclosure here. Even though I have read other Le Carré selections, The Night Manager only came to my attention by way of AMC’s fantastic miniseries. That miniseries, which I highly recommend watching, was one of those rare instances where the adaptation slightly exceeds the source material. The miniseries edited out much of the backroom politics and verbal backstabbing, which Le Carré excels at, and was replaced with character drama, situational tension, physical action of all types, and explosions, which, cliché or not as a truth, Americans most eagerly respond to.
The Night Manager, the novel, with its grimy locales, dry dialogue, and political guesswork in hopes to obtain knighthood, probably presents a more accurate take of a modern day spy more so than England’s reigning pop-culture Superman, James Bond, as well as, you know, the alluring looks of Tom Hiddleston. A spy who crawls into deep, tight situations, conspires with uncomfortable characters, and, one would think, doesn’t rely on pithy one-liners during a bout of fisticuffs, is exactly Jonathan Pine’s role in the story; even though he does get to throw the occasional punch, as well as take one. Or a dozen. If anything, the true hero of the tale is Pine’s MI-6 contact Burr, the protagonist with a raging desire to take down, once-and-for-bloody-all, drug-runner and arms-broker Richard Roper, who has been tagged with the title “The Worst Man in the World”. As such, he fails to be awarded with a corporate beer sponsorship.
While Pine’s plight is definitely the more sexy one of the story, Burr gets a great deal of attention as he seeks to fight evil internally not only among his peers at the Riverhouse, but to do so with bureaucracy. Friends, bureaucracy ain’t sexy. And it can make for an overly-lengthy read. Burr is a fun character to get into, he’s strong and just, which gives the many overly-dry chapters that John Le Carré is known for a reason to continue. The American male side of me, however, was waiting for the explosions. Waiting for that denouement of “Ha-ha! Got you Dickie Roper!” But Le Carré doesn’t work that way, frustratingly so.
The Night Manager is a long, slow read that is probably a great representation of deep cover sting work but makes for a tiring read, with a resolution that is unfulfilled and wanting. What was missing were a few more well-placed explosions.