Tessa Quayle, an activist and wife of mid-level diplomat Justin, has been found raped and murdered in the upcountry bush of Kenya along with her driver. Arnold Bluhm, a black physician who accompanied her and was widely thought to be her lover, has disappeared. As mild-mannered Justin begins to investigate her death for himself, he learns about corruption and collaboration in and between the Kenyan government, a huge multi-national pharmaceutical corporation, and even his British colleagues. The story shifts between Justin and other characters, and across the globe from Kenya to London, and from Switzerland and Italy to Canada. As with his earlier Cold War spy novels, Le Carre's excellent 2001 book focuses as much on character -- especially the subtle vagaries of class and race -- as on police and government procedures.
This report prepared by David Loftus
John le Carre has exchanged his usual cloak-and-dagger themes for this fast-paced thriller on the evils of corporate greed. Mild-mannered English diplomat Justin Quayle goes in search of his wife's murderers after she is discovered savagely murdered in the Kenyan backroads. Posted in the African country on a diplomatic mission, Justin traces his wife Tessa's last days and weeks, discovering that her death was no accident. The clever and kind Tessa had been close to revealing some very dirty secrets about a very large company until she met her untimely death.
This report prepared by Jennifer Hamm
John Le Carre
Scribner, Dec 2000, 28.00, 492 pp.
In Kenya, someone rapes and murders activist Tessa Quayle, wife of a mid level British diplomat while the victim's traveling companion Dr. Arnold Bluhm has vanished. Tessa and Arnold protested the inhumane practices of the global pharmaceutical companies. They bitterly complained about the use of locals to test new products and the selling of expired medicines that would be flushed down the toilet in the West.
The police blame the missing Arnold for the crime as evidence surfaced that they were lovers. Tessa's sedate, older spouse Justin wonders if something more sinister led to his wife's death. Even as his superiors want to place a lid on a major scandal, Justin begins to make inquiries starting with the time Tessa spent as a patient in an African hospital where he believes she discovered something top secret. He also believes that someone felt she deserved to die to keep all hidden skeletons buried so the public doesn't know.
Many recent novels have anointed the giant drug companies as the replacement to the Soviet Union as the enemy of the common person. With THE CONSTANT GARDENER, espionage thriller guru John Le Carre comes out of the cold and joins the ranks of writers starring a serene David battling against the pharmaceutical-government complex who will kill for profit. The story line is fast-paced and no one does locality scenes better than Mr. Le Carre does as he shows with his vivid tour of Kenya's Lake Turkana region. Fans of his great tales will welcome the author's switch, as this is one of his better entries in recent years and is one of the sub-genre's superior crafted tales.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner