John Le Carre's best novel, The Constant Gardener, takes a fascinating look deep into the human psyche and a bitter unsparing look at Africa's health care problems. Set in twentieth century Africa, we are taken straight inside the front doors of the corrupt colonial system that hampers so many well meaning efforts to ease the plight of the African peoples.
Justin Quayle works for the British Diplomatic Corps. In marrying Tessa, a much younger woman, Quayle has made them both the objects of much speculation and gossip. A quiet self contained man, who observes much, but speaks little, he is the object of much derision. His young wife has attracted several men's notice in the diplomatic community, and is therefore thought to be actively cuckolding Justin.
In swift harsh strokes, Le Carre opens the story with a double homicide. Quayles wife, along with the driver have been found murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana. Her friend and rumored lover Dr. Arnold Bluhm, has vanished. A devastated grieving husband goes into seclusion, and slowly begins a voyage of discovery into his wife's life. As the truth begins to emerge about what Tessa was doing, Justin finds himself falling far short of his wife's passion and dedication to life.
As the roles of those who work closest with Justin Quayle become clearer, he realizes the journey of redemption he has embarked on can only have one final resolution. With grim determination he finally understands what drove Tessa and what it cost her. Le Carre paints the giant multinational pharmaceutical companies as masters of exploitation and greed. He offers the reader a rare look at just how Africa's ailing peoples suffer from the usage of untested and second rate medications. But in the end, perhaps the most bitter pill to swallow is the realization that Africa is her own worst enemy.