A Small Town in Germany is a complex, Cold War era mystery that totters on the edge of a thriller.
In Germany, “an amorphous Movement* of popular resentments, popular protest and occasional violence” threatens Britain’s desperate attempt to gain admittance to the Common Market.
As if that weren’t enough, Leo Harting, a Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Bonn, has disappeared.
Boxes of documents disappeared with him.
London sends Alan Turner to Bonn to find Harting.
What Turner finds is a massive security screw-up: Harting had been a “temporary worker” at the British Embassy for 20 years without ever undergoing a security check.
The embassy staff are more upset by a missing tea trolley, typewriter, and electric heater than either their missing colleague or the missing files.
Instead of making Turner a sexy, James Bond type, John Le Carré keeps readers’ interest with the wealth of detail Le Carré accumulated during the two-and-a-half years he spent in Bonn doing the same Embassy job as the missing Harting.
Although Brexit has made a story about Britain trying to unite with Europe seem almost farcical, the populist movement of Small Town feels terrifyingly contemporary.
So, too, does the behind-the-scenes intrigue of men who want to rule without the annoyance of seeking office.
A Small Town in Germany by John Le Carré
381 p. Coward-McCann, 1968. 1968 bestseller #3. My grade: B+.
*from the preface to the American edition of A Small Town in Germany. The full quote is “”An amorphous Movement of popular resentments, popular protest and occasional violence has come into being. The policies are immaterial: it is a Movement of the resentful mass; it is unified by its slogans, and fed by its dreams.”
© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni