To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
The very first novel by John le Carre. The 1950s Cold War setting may not suit everyone. And it is more of a murder mystery than an espionage story. But a good read for his fans, and those interested in literature of that period. "A Murder of Quality" was written around the same time, and it is also a murder mystery (solved by Smiley) with no espionage element.
For the first book he wrote, John le Carre comes across as a different kind of author. That is immediately visible from the way he narrates stories, the viewpoints he selects to describe scenes, the overall ingenuity of the plot - all delivered in a detached and very conspicuous indirect manner. It is always a good experience to read John le Carre, so you could as well start with this one.
I read praises about the the Smiley series and decided to give it a try when I found out the hit novels The Spy Who Came in from the Cold & Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy were installments of it. I've had devoured John le Carré's The Night Manager previously which is easily an offbeat thriller, and so decided to give this a try. This is a quick read but is nothing like a dime thriller, and just when you think you have managed to second guess things, you'll find out your theories are embarrassingly wrong. I felt as if the writer was saying, "Yeah, well, keep trying."
I am in no way a LeCarre completeist. I started with Tinker Tailor after watching the glorious BBC series (greatest TV dramatisation ever?). Considering buying the new novel, I decided to read the Spy who came in from the cold, on which the new book is based, and which I was aware was a Smiley novel. I was surprised to find two earlier books.
In this, the first Smiley book, he interviews Fennan, a minor foreign office official about his communist party past. The interview goes well, and Smiley tells him not to worry. Shortly afterwards, Smiley is called by the head if the circus, telling him that Fennan has committed suicide, citing the pressure of the interview. What follows is a repeatedly twisting spy story as Smiley uncovers the involvement of a hostile intelligence service.
This very much reads as the work of a developing novelist. It is a very decent thriller, in which we learn a great deal about the history of George Smiley. It doesn't have the smooth sophistication of the later works, particularly LeCarre's masterpiece about the hunt for the mole, Gerald. The pieces of the plot clunk into place, rather than effortlessly meshing. It is to an extent overwritten, with regular expositional pauses as the plot to date is explained just before the next twist.
Possibly the most fascinating part of the book is seeing Le Carre test out ideas and characters for later books. George Smiley is pretty much himself, particularly in his disillusion with the Circus. Peter Guillam is rather more old school than the dashing thug of the later books. We are introduced to Smiley's sidekick from the Met, Mendel. The head of the Circus, Maston, politically sensitive, but operationally incompetent, is clearly Percy Alleline's successor. The degree of sympathy between hostile secret services is reminiscent of The Perfect Spy. Tellingly, at the denouement of Call for the Dead Smiley questions his morality, measured against the yardstick of his opponents, in a way which is later echoed in Smiley's people.
So, this is an excellent thriller, a chase through foggy London is particularly good. It is a very good work by a new novelist. It's understandably not quite up to the level of the author's later work.
This was the first of the George Smiley stories, set in Britain during the late 50s I would imagine. When talking in money terms, it is old pounds and shillings. It also has a wonderfully atmospheric feel of Retro London and a good old foggy pea souper.
I had read the Karla trilogy of George Smiley which takes place in the 1970s. I also read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in which George Smiley has a minor role. That is set in the 60s. Therefore, I was compelled to learn more of this wonderful character called George Smiley - a cultured and, perhaps, rather snobby English gentleman who works in the British Secret Service.
George Smiley is given a fine introduction in the first chapter, allowing the reader to know all about his beginnings and how he is a rather reserved yet intelligent man - quiet and polite with a softly spoken educated English manner. In some ways, most people might find George Smiley boring – a short tubby man with white hair and glasses when the story actually begins. He is middle aged and has been taken for a ride by his estranged and beautiful wife. No one who knew the Smileys could understand how such a marriage union could have happened in the first place.
We have this boring reserved man (George Smiley) whose wife has run off with a dashing Latin lover. This adventurous lover drives motor racing cars and lives in Cuba. Yet despite all of this, somehow this hopelessly smitten man (George Smiley) is our great hero with a modesty and vulnerability that makes him appear hopelessly week. He is a contradictory type of hero with a certain type of negative view of the world. He trusts virtually no one and has a gift for seeing deep inside people and the ability to keep everything to himself. When he does pick friends or confidants they are rare but usually well chosen. He works in an old and drab London office among clerical staff that all seem equally as cheerless. However, once the story gets going, these dull grey offices and the dreary corridors fade into obscurity. Suddenly, the dower and softly spoken English gentleman will become anything but monotonous.
George Smiley is an absolute peach of a British Agent who can decipher and adapt to his opponents well - very well indeed. In this wonderful story, we are introduced to Smiley for the first time as he tackles the suicide of a colleague and the subsequent involvement of East German field agents. Our little tubby man investigates and unravels with great aplomb. This is an absolute peach of a read and I would highly recommend this first George Smiley story.
Where it all began, fifty-seven years ago. The first John le Carré book to feature George Smiley. My third read of a modern classic. This was and remains a true reflection of the cold world of espionage. Smiley is required to interview a civil servant, Samuel Fennan. It's a routine security check, but the following day Fennan apparently commits suicide. Or did he? On the very day that Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man. What, if anything, do the East Germans and their agents know about this man's death? Does the East German Steel Mission have a rôle to play in this gripping tale of deceit?
For those of you who have read the Smiley canon you will know that the Fennan debacle features in future plots. Le Carré was (is) brilliant at following threads through decades of suspense.
These latest editions from Penguin Modern Classics feature wonderful art-deco covers, which alone make them attractive to own.