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The Constant Gardener    by John Le Carré order for
Constant Gardener
by John Le Carré
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Tessa Quayle - activist and the intelligent, lovely young wife of Justin Quayle, who is a member of the British High Commission in Africa - is discovered at the site of an ambush with her throat cut. Her native driver has been decapitated and her traveling companion Dr. Arthur Bluhm has disappeared and is accused of the horrible crime.

Justin, a mild mannered man whose passions are his gardening and his wife, follows the trail of Tessa's last few days on Earth, sure that this was not a random killing. So begins an engrossing tale that hooks one on the first page and doesn't let go until the last. In fact, after I put the book down, I still thought of the characters and the premise for the story. Le Carre is a master storyteller. Also he takes umbrage at what we as human beings are doing to each other and to the world we live in. While reading this book, I found myself wanting to pluck up Tessa's fallen banner and race to the front lines to continue her fight.

In following the trail of Tessa's last days, Justin discovers a plot of escalating intensity and intrigue on the part of a drug company to manufacture a new miracle pill for tuberculosis. The pharmaceutical company disregards a serious side effect and actively markets their new 'cure'. Justin feels that Tessa's having taken on the huge and powerful corporation was a direct cause of her death. A disclaimer at the back of this book says that the company that features so prominently in the plot is purely fiction. I sure hope so. But the book reads so plausibly that one wonders if this whole story could be true.

John le Carre once again gives us an excellent read, developed with his usual expertise. His knowledge of Africa is apparent in every page, and the finely written characters make the tale come alive.

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