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While surprises are all in order in thrillers, the final surprise of making Stella somebody so different was more than a bit unconvincing. The author's focus seems to have been on social commentary as he mentions in the afterword.
Today there are so many thrillers since almost everybody seem to be writing thrillers. So you have to be damn good stand out from this crowd. This book is the second installment of the Smiley Series but it has nothing to do with the Cambridge Circus and its agents. It's more of a probe into Smiley's character as he plays a detective as a favour for a friend. You can skip it and you'll lose no substantial information when the series as a whole is considered. But this is a damn good novel and really quick to read. So I didn't see any reason to miss it.
P. S. The thing that I found interesting here has actually nothing to do with the Smiley series but with Game of Thrones. GRR Martin has directly borrowed without modifications a few terms from this book which made crucial GoT stuff, for eg. The Long Nights, & ...they were called crows b/c they dressed in black... and a few other things.
The murder of Stella Rode, a rather twee sort, is investigated by George Smiley in this, quite different novel, by the author. The book is set within the confines of a typically English school. Smiley is working outside the ambit of espionage - as this is very much a murder mystery in a much more traditional sense (rather a golden age murder mystery format). I thoroughly enjoyed this - its much more my genre, it's well written, as you would expect, with plenty of wry humour too. Recommended.
I read the other Smiley novels some years ago but this slipped through the net. At first the fact that this one was not a spy novel irritated me. I stopped reading but then went back to it and started again without prejudice. I loved it as it remains, obviously, a le Carre book. If you are looking for a clever little book that is interesting to read, moves on at the normal Smiley pace, with the clever little side issues and hints, then this is a bargain. So don't read it if you want a typical spy novel, just read it because it is an entertaining, well written story.
John le Carre's books are all of a very high standard this this one is no exception. He is one of my favourite authors and I am just in the process of going through his books once more. I read them all originally in the 1970s and it is time to revisit them. First class entertainment but really bad if you have things that you really must get done because it is hard to put them down.
I love the way John le Carre writes. The stories are always well crafted and have lots of twists and turns. Although this is a George Smiley book, it is not espionage. I don't want to give away any spoilers - so just read it!
Le Carre observes people and places so well. His characters' language and mannerisms; their likes and dislikes place them immediately in a society that I have no personal experience of but it is instantly recognisable. The 'whodunnit' becomes a vehicle to introduce you to jealousies, rivalries, arrogance, neuroses and vindictiveness in a small, introverted community in the late 50s but which exists everywhere in all times and walks of life. This is no Agatha Christie with contrived sets and cardboard, cut-out characters. This is real. And it is a relief to find his protagonist is not some smart, street-wise tough cop or girl-getting James Bond but an ordinary man-in-the-street without chiselled Hollywood features. Le Carre's second novel; nothing related to the post-war world of espionage; but a work of literature and modern relevance like everything he does.