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Monday, 8 August 2011

Audio books – The Russia House – John le Carré

Star rating – 9/10

This is another great audio book from the original BBC Radio 4 1994 dramatisation of John le Carré’s classic cold war spy novel. And there is no-one better suited to the whisky drinking; jazz loving; tenor sax playing publisher Barley Blair than Tom Baker, who is absolutely wonderful in this part.

Blair is a very unlikely candidate for being involved in any espionage, but he gets mixed up in proceedings via a colleague at a Moscow book fair, who is given a manuscript that threatens to blow the lids on vital Russian nuclear secrets during the perestroika period. The beautiful Russian woman, Katya, (Valentina Yakunina) who hands over the manuscript, insists on Barley Blair being the only one who it should be given to. But when he is nowhere to be found back in Britain, the literary agent contacts the British authorities, as its contents are so potentially explosive.

And so a wonderfully gentle yet thrilling game of chess ensues, with Barley bumbling along as an unwilling, and often unwitting pawn in the game. The adventures take him from London to Moscow, then on the night train to Leningrad, and across the continent to America too. But Barley is not as stupid or drunk as he likes to make out, and he really has a cunning plan of his own, inevitably involving the lovely Katya.

The plot is not too intricate to follow, yet it is very engaging, with the typical le Carré twists and turns. This audio book really is a delight to listen to, and should make any long holiday car journey that bit more bearable.

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