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Old 02-19-2019, 04:58 PM   #59
Victoria
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I can accept Suzanna as a metaphor, but what exactly is Toby?

I like "solitary decider". It begs the question: what right does Toby have to make the choices he was this early in the story? At least Quinn, for all that he is painted as a thoroughly dislikeable character, has some claim on authority.

At that point in the tale Toby had committed treason without much justification. He'd been spying on secret government meetings without permission and for no better reason than his boss had chosen to leave him out. Okay, so given Toby's position this did inspire suspicion, but is suspicion sufficient cause to break the law?

Actually, I got the impression that Quinn was quietly and subtly held accountable and pushed off to the side. How much punishment was he due? How much punishment was applied to the mercenaries that pulled the trigger? The story gives us no way of knowing, but the behaviour was unprofessional (and not really credible). However, it was still a government sanctioned operation which seems to rule out a murder charge, so how much punishment would have been enough?

In addition to Toby's spying on Quinn, there are so many other interesting issues buried in here: the privatisation of national security; whether there was ever any reason for this to be a military operation; that Quinn may have sanctioned an extraordinary rendition to be carried out by American mercenaries on British soil; that British soldiers were discharged before being used for the operation. But all these things, even the deaths of the anonymous woman and child, get brushed aside as we hear about Jeb and Kit and Toby. And their actions seemed personally motivated rather than actually caring.
Wow - we’re almost polar opposites in how we rate the characters I thought Toby was supposed to be the hero and the actual reason for the story, while Quinn was the crook.

I understood Quinn and his unnamed cohorts, as acting entirely outside the knowledge of government. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a reason for the measures Quinn took to keep it secret; after hours, no cameras, paid off guards, Paul briefed off site by Elloit, etc.

Britain conducts covert measures everyday, and would have a mix of public servants and political staff already read into the operations. They’d have established procedures, and wouldn’t need the measures Quinn was using. And the use of private contractors wasn’t illegal or unusual - they were linked in through normal channels via Ministerial procurement.

We’re told that Quinn had already pulled a financial stunt with Crispin when he was at Defense. But his party decided that he was new to government, and wasn’t well briefed by Defense procurement staff. So Quinn was yanked out of Defense and given a second chance at Foreign Service.

Toby, being young, and unaware of Quinn’s previous scrape, was part of Quinn’s second chance. But Toby was told by his boss (the regional director) to make sure Quinn didn’t step in any mud.

I thought Quinn excluded Toby from the meeting because he knew Toby would have reported the meeting to his boss, and the info would have gone up the official chain of command.

I didn’t think Toby was motivated by personal reasons. He witnessed Qunn’s unsectioned actions. Toby had been told that Crispin was banned from Whitehall and would have no more contracts, yet Quinn was still working with him. Toby also witnessed Quinn use his diplomatic travels to run side deals. Toby received complaints about Quinn from colleages of other countries.

Also, Quinn had complete contempt for all things goverment. Towards the end, he installed his own phone line, his own safe, used a non-government lawyer, outside curriers, managed his own mail so there wasn’t a log of it, or even use government vehicles. Toby, as a good public servant, was alarmed, as were all the staff who reported to Toby.

Finally, when Toby confided in Oakley, Oakley confirmed they’d become aware of Quinn’s side deals, and were watching him. Oakely asked Toby to alert him via text if more occured.

An argument absolutely in favour of your interpretation and against mine, is that Jeb and his men were definitely ‘assigned’ to the operation, even if it was off the books.

As you say, tape-recording Quinn was absolutely illegal. His supposed reason was that he didn’t want to expose the colleagues who had confided in him. (Pretty thin)

Ultimately, everything goes south. In the last chapter, one of the documents Oakley drops off is the government’s internal inquiry. I assumed Quinn had been forced to resign, but Whitehall wanted to keep everything secret.

I thought Toby being a ‘solitary decider’ was his unwillingness to play along. He wanted to expose everything, including the unreliability of using private defense contractors.

I’m learning that different interruptions is what makes a book club interesting!

But was it also by design? It’s my first book by Le Carré, and it seemed very disjointed. I finally had to keep notes, because things would seem one way, and chapters later Le Carré would offer a completely different explanation.

I also felt that we were asked to swallow a lot. Having Toby break the law by recording Quinn seems absurd when all he had to do was call up his boss and report Quinn’s behaviour. I decided that Le Carré was telling a fable or parable, so having it hang together logically wasn’t important to him.

However, your observations about 2013 and Edward Snowden are really interesting. The book is certainly riddled with moral ambiguity.

Last edited by Victoria; 02-19-2019 at 05:03 PM. Reason: Fixed tag.
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