The Night Manager

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The Night Manager
First edition
Author John le Carré
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Spy novel
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 429 pp
ISBN 0-679-42513-6
Preceded by The Secret Pilgrim
Followed by Our Game

The Night Manager is an espionage/detective novel by John le Carré, published in 1993. It is his first post-Cold War novel, detailing an undercover operation to nab an international criminal.

Plot summary[edit]

Jonathan Pine is a former British soldier turned night auditor for a luxury hotel in Cairo. One night, Pine encounters Sophie, a French-Arab woman who is the mistress of an Arab arms dealer, who has ties to Richard Onslow Roper, an even more prolific arms dealer (in Sophie's words, "the worst man in the world"). Sophie provides Pine with incriminating documents, asking him to forward them to the Egyptian authorities. Pine does so, but, disregarding her warnings that Roper has ties to British intelligence, also forwards copies to a friend with MI-6. A short time later, Sophie is found murdered, and Pine angrily confronts his friend, who dismisses Pine's accusations and says no further action will be taken.

Six months later, Pine is the night manager of an equally luxurious hotel in Zurich, and happens to be on duty when Roper and his entourage arrive for a one-night stay. Afterwards, Pine is approached by intelligence operatives Leonard Burr and Rex Goodhew, who head a British anti-arms-smuggling organization and are planning an elaborate sting operation against Roper. Eager to avenge Sophie, Pine agrees to go undercover to infiltrate Roper's vast criminal empire, but the operation is jeopardized by an inter-agency turf war within the intelligence community.

Burr's operation, a joint effort between Burr and sympathetic American colleagues, is code-named "Limpet." The first stage is for Pine to fabricate a criminal identity and cover story and heads to the Bahamas, where Roper's main residence is. Pine wins the confidence of Roper by "rescuing" his son from a phony kidnapping orchestrated by Burr, getting severely injured in the process when the kidnappers beat him up. When he recovers, Roper recruits Pine into his organization, in preparation for his latest and largest illegal arms deal, with a Colombian drug cartel.

The other part of Operation Limpet, unknown to Pine, is that the cartel's lawyer, Dr. Paul Apostoll, is secretly an informant for the American FBI and DEA. He explains to Burr that the cartel has grown so large and influential that it considers itself a "state within a state," and, fittingly, has decided to organize its bands of enforcers along the lines of a professional army, complete with military-grade weaponry and training. Roper has agreed to supply the weaponry, and training from experienced mercenaries, in exchange for a large shipment of cocaine, at a discount price, which Roper will then sell in Europe for an enormous profit.

With Burr's prodding, Apostoll plants the suggestion in his employers' minds that Roper's normal front man, Major Corcoran, is unreliable, forcing Roper to use Pine instead. Corcoran is convinced that Pine is a plant, but cannot find any proof. While signing the paperwork Pine gathers information to convict Roper. He has also fallen in love with Roper's innocent English mistress, Jed.

Meanwhile, however, corrupt factions within both the CIA and British Intelligence are profiting from the illegal arms trade, and form a secret organization, 'Flagship', to scuttle Burr's sting operation. They betray Pine's true identity to Roper, who holds him captive on his yacht and tortures him.

To save Pine, Burr sacrifices his operation and allows Roper to get away, by contacting Roper's "satrap," Sir Anthony Bradshaw, and bluffing that he has enough evidence to send Roper to prison, but will stay his hand if Pine and Jed are released unharmed. Bradshaw and Roper fall for the deception, and Roper complies.

As with many Le Carre novels, the story has an ambiguous ending. Pine is saved and he and Jed live quietly as a couple in England, but Roper and his corrupt allies complete their deal and profit from it, while Burr and the honest American enforcement officers working with him are discredited.


The Night Manager features the reappearance of Harry Palfrey, the corrupt Legal Adviser to the British Secret Service, who first appeared in The Russia House. Sir Anthony Bradshaw previously appeared in the epilogue of The Secret Pilgrim.


On January 10, 2015, production of an adaptation was announced. Directed by Susanne Bier, the six-part miniseries will air on BBC and AMC in 2016. The cast includes Tom Hiddleston as Pine, Hugh Laurie as Roper, Olivia Colman as Burr, Tom Hollander as Corcoran, and Elizabeth Debicki as Jed.[1]