In This Review
Agent Running in the Field: A Novel

Agent Running in the Field: A Novel

By John le Carré

Viking, 2019, 288 pp.

For decades, the former MI6 intelligence officer David Cornwell—known to the world by his pseudonym, John le Carré—has written espionage novels starring protagonists who regret, but can never escape, the moral compromises of their often duplicitous profession. His spies have combated the Soviets, criminal networks, and terrorists. Even if they used dubious means, le Carré always seemed to assume that their ends were admirable. He no longer does. At 88, he takes up the timely topic of Brexit through a complex plot involving Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. The gripping novel’s most sympathetic character considers Brexit a disaster, which he blames on members of the British upper class, whose characterization includes a barely fictionalized portrait of the current prime minister, Boris Johnson, as a naive, self-indulgent, and opportunistic foreign secretary (a post he held from 2016 to 2018). In le Carré’s eyes, his country has not aged well: the years have not added to its wisdom; rather, they have ushered

in disgrace.