BOOKS: A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL

JOHN LE CARRE WEAVES A TERRIFIC TALE ABOUT A BRITISH SPY IN PURSUIT OF A CONSPIRACY THAT DOESN'T EXIST

During his more than 30 years of turning out literate, suspenseful, best-selling novels, John le Carre has played just about every imaginable variation on the themes of espionage and betrayal. But The Tailor of Panama (Knopf; 333 pages; $25) shows that he knows a few more tricks than he has so far revealed. How about, for example, a story of some eager beavers in British intelligence hot on the trail of a conspiracy that does not actually exist?

Harry Pendel, 40, is the outwardly prosperous proprietor of Pendel & Braithwaite, Limitada, a gentlemen's tailor shop that bears on its frosted-glass window...

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