Monday, December 5, 2011

REVIEW: The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carré

John Le Carré is one of my father's favorite authors, so I've been meaning to read his books for years; with the Tinker Tailor movie about to come out, I decided it was time. (I read the first two books this summer.) The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was Le Carré's third book, and his most famous hero, master spy George Smiley, appears in it, though not as the protagonist. It's a short little book - the edition I have is only 212 pages - but that makes the complexity and precision of the plotting even more impressive. (My dad tells me that this one seems "narrow in scope" compared to the later books, so I can't wait to see what those are like.) It's about a British spy who pretends to be a double agent in order to bring down a top East German - or so he thinks. What's actually going on, and who's really betraying whom, is what he has to find out. It's quite a ride, and it all eventually comes clear - before it ends on a fascinatingly ambiguously note. I've been talking about the plotting, but Le Carré's language also makes his books stand out from your average spy thriller. His writing is spare and compact but gorgeous. This book would be a good introduction to Le Carré, I think - it's better than his earlier ones (which are quite good!) but shorter and perhaps more accessible than the later ones.

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