I’ve read quite a bit of John le Carré over the years, mostly his Cold War spy thrillers, such as The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Most of these are extremely well known and went a long way to set the benchmark for spy thrillers for years after their publication in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Night Manager is le Carré’s first post-Cold War novel and was published in 1993. As the Soviets were no longer “the enemy” the scope of the spy novel had to broaden and in this novel we are introduced to the world of international arms dealers. Richard Onslow Royle is an arms dealer based in the Bahamas who travels the world making multi-million dollar deals with whomever has the cash for top of the range weaponry. He travels in a private jet, has a luxury yacht and stays in the best hotels.
It is in one of these luxurious hotels that we meet Jonathan Pine, the night manager of the title. In the book (the BBC serialisation hasn’t started yet, so I don’t know what they’ve done here), Pine is a former soldier who has worked his way up the hospitality ladder to be in charge of one of Switzerland’s finest hotels. Some of the stories he recounts of the staff he works with are hilarious – one doesn’t expect humour in these sorts of novels, but it’s there if you look for it. Le Carré contrasts the hotels in Cairo and Switzerland deftly, but you are in no doubt at any time where you are.
I’ve only read the first two chapters, and already I’m gripped. I know that there’s a great deal of intrigue to come and that there may not be a happy ending, but I’m fine with that. I’m just saving up enough money to let me stay in a really posh hotel for a month.