As a useful all-round sportsman, Perry plays a decent game of tennis, and the resort's tennis pro introduces him to Dima, a muscular Russian in his mid-fifties who plays tennis rather better than you'd expect, but then again tennis is apparently the sport of choice for the new Russian mogul. There's a three set tennis match, played in front of Dima's bodyguards and extended family, an eccentric bunch who manage to intrigue both Perry and Gail. After the match, there's an invitation to a party and this is where mileages probably start to vary.

Charismatic and volatile Dima, Dmitri Vladimirovich Krasnov, European director of Arena Multi Global Trading Conglomerate of Nicosia, Cyprus is actually the world's number-one money launderer, a kingpin of the Russian Mafia. Recent developments have led him to conclude his days are numbered and he is looking for someone who can broker a deal to give him refuge in Britain. Fair enough, you'd think. What reasonable person would knock him back when he's in a position to lift the lid on activities the British authorities would presumably be very interested in?

On the other hand, before things progress too much further the reader starts to suspect the authorities, or at least elements within their community, either have actual interests in those activities or would prefer not to know the details, thank you very much.

Perry contacts the authorities, things get sorted and it's one in the eye for the forces of evil and injustice. That's probably the way you'd do it if you were someone other than Le Carre. A bit of derring do along the way, and there you go.

It's not, however, that simple.

For a start, given their politics, left-leaning Perry and Gail aren't the most likely candidates when it comes to cutting deals with the British intelligence establishment. Le Carre, given that situation, carefully sets things up so that, yes, the co-operation and the approach to the authorities is a logical development.

Given all that, as I read I had the feeling that things were being set in place rather carefully, and that the seemingly-chance encounter was actually carefully stage managed. Things seem just a little too coincidental, particularly the interaction between Gail and the recently-orphaned sisters who've been incorporated into Dima's extended family.

Regardless of whether that's the case, the gradual unfolding of the plot line is probably a little too slow for those who fancy a dash of élan with their derring do. Le Care takes his time and the seemingly innocuous details he slips into the narrative make for an interesting read if you're into a slow build rather than a gallop to a climax.

There's a perfect example of that when the English agent takes the guided tour of the hotel where Dima is going to sign over his role with the Mafia, which will also, effectively, be his own death warrant. He's going to be spirited out the back door, and the guided tour gives the agent the chance to map out the escape route.

Someone else would just have the fugitives bolting through the back alley closely pursued by the Mafia bodyguards. Le Carre has the agent thinking ahead for chances to take out the pursuit because he knows the lie of the land. But while he knows the lie of the land on the escape route agent Luke and Hector, the aging maverick director of special projects, are in much more uncertain territory when it comes to dealing with people on their own side.

Inter-departmental and inter-service rivalry had given Le Carre plenty of ammunition over the years, but in most cases, the rivals were on the same notional side working towards the same notional objectives. Here we're looking at a high level nexus between criminal organisations, political identities and intelligence agencies. That's not the sort of mix that's going to be conducive to an easy incorporation of a Russian money launderer, his highly religious (no, make that obsessively religious) wife and brood of children out of the clutches of his cronies and into the safety of a high security witness-protection program.

Reactions to this story are very much going to stem from where you sit on the ideological fence. Personally, being more or less sympathetic to the Perry and Gail world view, I found the gradual unfolding a matter of yes, I can see why you'd have done that. I'd probably have done the same. I suspect, on the other hand, those who are heading in from a different world view would find the same approach slow-moving and a convenient excuse to write an excellent piece of writing off as, say, slow-moving and ponderous.

Personally, as long as Le Carre can continue producing wrk of this quality I'll be lining up to get my copy as soon as possible after the day it appears on the shelves. 

© Ian Hughes 2012