John le Carré
Review: Karen Watkins
Le Carré was never a writer to spell everything out. He usually leaves the reader to connect the dots.
Silverview is foggy, disjointed and confusing but if you persevere and pay attention, you are sure to enjoy this spy thriller. A little background into the characters will help.
The story begins with an anxious Lily arriving at a house in London’s West End with a pushchair containing her 2-year-old son, Sam.
She’s searching for middle-aged spy chief and head of domestic security, Stewart Proctor, who is experiencing marital infidelity.
Lily is sniffing out the source of a leak and gives him an envelope and stays with him while he reads the contents.
Meanwhile, Julian Lawndsley has moved to a small English seaside town to run a bookshop, even though he knows little about books.
He hasn’t been there long when he has a visitor, Edward Avon, a Polish émigré who lives in a big house, Silverview, on the edge of town.
Edward had been recruited by the British intelli-
gence service as a field agent during the Cold War in Europe.
Florian is the service’s codename for Edward from when he was an active agent. While doing spy work in the Bosnian War Edward got close to a Muslim Jordanian
family and passed along secrets to the widow. As a cover, he collected blue and white pottery from merchants in order to use their phones and computers to pass along his intel.
He used Julian in a similar way. Edward’s wife Deborah is dying of cancer. She was a highly-respected British intelligence officer, specialising in Arab countries. She suspects a major security leak. She found Edward presumably snooping in her office, which is off limits to everyone but her.
Deborah and Edward’s daughter, Lily knows that her mother was an intelligence officer − probably because of her secret office. She picked up on the tension between her parents and delivered her mum’s warning to Stewart but she didn’t know what was in the letter.
And then there’s Celia of Celia’s Bygones, the shop next to Julian’s, wearing a bright green and orange kimono and chain-smoking cigarillos.
A highlight of the story is a long central scene during which Stewart, tracing a lead, interviews a husband and wife spy duo in Somerset.
David Cornwell, aka John le Carré, died in December 2020 at the age of 89. Silverview is his 26th and final novel and was written some years before his death.
It is not up to his usual standard, which is possibly why he did not publish it.