Charles McCarry might be the true heir to John Le Carré. His spy novels have plenty of thrills, but focus on the human aspects of espionage, the betrayals, the inability to trust anyone, the costs of being “in the business”.
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Nobody knows that cost more than Paul Christopher, McCarry’s best known creation. Christopher is an on-again, off-again spy first introduced in The Tears of Autumn, which to my mind presents the most plausible explanation of JFK’s assassination I’ve heard. His girlfriend Molly has been killed for reasons that aren’t entirely clear but are certainly related to Christopher’s intelligence work.
The Last Supper tells the story of the early days of the CIA, moving through time from WWII-era Burma to Vietnam during the war to Communist China, and later years. The Last Supper paints a deeply detailed back story of Christopher’s parents, and how he came to be who he is. And presents the mystery of who has betrayed Christopher and killed his girlfriend.
In tone and pacing, The Last Supper reminds me most of Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy, which to my mind not just a great spy novel but one of this century’s truly great books. The Last Supper is richly detailed, historically accurate and informative, and a wonderful mystery.