The Constant Gardener

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This article is about the novel. For the film, see The Constant Gardener (film). For the trust, see Constant Gardener Trust.
The Constant Gardener
First UK edition cover
Author John le Carré
Country United Kingdom
Language English, German, Swahili
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
January 4, 2001
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 557pp
ISBN 0-340-73337-3
OCLC 59510670
Preceded by Single & Single (1999)
Followed by Absolute Friends (2003)

The Constant Gardener is a 2001 novel by John le Carré. It tells the story of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat whose activist wife is murdered. Believing there is something behind the murder, he seeks to uncover the truth and finds an international conspiracy of corrupt bureaucracy and pharmaceutical money.

The plot was vaguely based on a real-life case in Kano, Nigeria.

Plot summary[edit]

Justin Quayle, a British diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya, is told that his activist wife, Tessa, was killed while travelling with a doctor friend in a desolate region of Africa. Investigating on his own, Quayle discovers that her murder, reportedly done by her friend, may have had more sinister roots.

Justin learns that Tessa had uncovered a corporate scandal involving medical experimentation in Africa. KVH (Karel Vita Hudson), a large pharmaceutical company working under the cover of AIDS tests and treatments, is testing a tuberculosis drug that has severe side effects. Rather than help the trial subjects and begin again with a new drug, KVH covered up the side effects and improved the drug only in anticipation of a massive multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis outbreak.

Justin travels the world, often under assumed identities, to reconstruct the circumstances leading to Tessa's murder. As he begins to piece together Tessa's final report on the fraudulent drug tests, he learns that the roots of the conspiracy stretch further than he could have imagined; to a German pharmawatch NGO, an African aid station, and, most disturbingly to him, corrupt politicians in the British Foreign Office.

John le Carré writes in the book's afterword: 'by comparison with the reality, my story [is] as tame as a holiday postcard'.[1] The book is dedicated to Yvette Pierpaoli, a French activist who died during the course of her aid work.[2]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Constant Gardener was made into a film of same name directed by Fernando Meirelles, starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz in August of 2005 by Focus Features. The film grossed $33,565,375 in the US box office ($82,466,670 worldwide). It was critically acclaimed as a wholesale ripoff of The Fugitive.


  1. ^ le Carré, John (2005). The Constant Gardener. Pocket Star. Afterword. ISBN 1-4165-0390-0. 
  2. ^ Honan, William H. (April 20, 1999). "Yvette Pierpaoli, 60, Aid Worker Who Devoted Life to Refugees". The New York Times.