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Call for the Dead introduces us to le Carré's most famous creation - George Smiley. When the target of a routine security check is found dead, an apparently suicide, Smiley looks like he is being set up by his boss to take the fall. He begins an investigation and when he receives a letter from the dead man, he starts to dig into what might have happened, which leads him to a conspiracy and a look into his past that he had not expected.
This is le Carré's first novel, and I am in two minds. I have read a lot of his other novels, and enjoyed them. However, I strugged with this one - it takes a while to get going, and it seems that only at the very end do things start to move along with any sort of pace. This was a surprise because I have not felt this with other books - I suppose all writers styles evolve, and I don't want to be too critical. I'm certainly glad that the book was a success and we get to enjoy later Smiley stories - just perhaps not quite my cup of tea.
John le Carré is probably best known for his cold war spy novels, particularly Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, but his career started with Call For The Dead. This is the book that introduces us to George Smiley, le Carré's protagonist for many of his earlier novels, and unlike later novels such as the aforementioned The Spy Who Came In From The Cold this book is less of a spy novel and more of a mystery thriller.
Given that Call For The Dead was published in the decade after James Bond made his debut in print the casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that le Carré's work comes across as somewhat pedestrian when compared to Fleming's more popular secret agent. However, whereas Bond was effectively an early template of the action hero, complete with n unambiguous moral compass, George Smiley presents more of a morally complex character, along with a much more complex narrative.
It's this compelxity that I like, and while I don't personally consider this particular novel to be as good as some of the later George Smiley books I still found it to be gripping and readable. I read a few of the later novels when I was younger, but this was the first time I'd turned my attention to Call For The Dead. I can't say I was disappointed.
I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to round out their exposure to classic spy novels. If you're a fan of the classic James Bond action hero style spy stories then you may find this one a little slower than what you're used to but I'm sure if you stick with it you'll soon understand why le Carré is still considered by some to be one of the greatest spy writers of all time.
Normally give John Le Carre full marks, but found this book wanting. Was disappointed with the story and the characterisation of George Smiley ... A shame after reading such books as the Russia house, tinker tailor soldier spy and a league of spies.
Starts we'll, but you've solved it pretty quickly. Lecarre is strong on setting scenes and placing you in smileys shoes. Although this tale is showing it's age in its pacing. Overpriced for a quick read.