The Constant Gardener

The Constant Gardener, by John Le Carre, is a novel filled with mystery and intrigue. I’ll try not to give anything away in my review so I don’t spoil the outcome for anyone.

The book opens with the murder of Tessa Quayle. Tessa’s husband Justin works for the British High Commission in Nairobi, and Tessa takes it upon herself to visit African women in the villages. On these visits, she discovers a drug cover up – the medicine Dypraxa, for TB, actually does more harm than good. She discovers the people responsible for this terrible cover-up, but tells her husband nothing. When Tessa is murdered with her partner Bluhm, Justin does not know anything about Tessa’s secret mission.

However, some people in power within the High Commission do know what Tessa was up to, and why her murderers had motive. They rush to cover up the story – gather all of Tessa’s information and reports and destroy them. Justin is able to save Tessa’s laptop and a few of her private documents and hide them from his superiors. He then disappears. He pretends to be on sick leave, and the High Commission spreads rumors that he is mentally unstable and work furiously to find him before he discovers the truth. He remains one step ahead of his enemies and follows Tessa’s trail, unearthing what she discovered. Justin sends letters periodically to his lawyer’s aunt, staying under the radar but in communication. In the end, Justin goes to the spot where Tessa was murdered. I won’t reveal what happens, but the ending, although sad, leaves you with a sense that Justin found a way to win despite the odds.

Fun fact, the actor who plays Justin in the film (Ralph Fiennes) also plays Voldemort
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was another one required for my Lit & Film class, so we’ll be discussing it in class and watching the movie. I haven’t read a mystery in a long time, and this one was great. Le Carre is a strong writer with a good command of language, and he knows how to weave a tale that kept me on the edge of my seat. Although the book is pretty hefty (480-some pages), it seemed to fly by. The reading was quick, filled with suspense. Le Carre also gives us glimpses into Justin and Tessa’s past, and the minds of other workers in the High Commission. It is very interesting to delve into these subplots; the inner workings of all the character’s minds add another layer to the mystery.
I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes mystery, intrigue, drama, and romance. I’m excited to watch the movie and see how it compares! Meanwhile, I’m still reading The Marriage Plot. 

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