I am reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $1.99.
Ever since the movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy came out I have wanted to read John le Carré. But I have not known where to start. Tinker, Tailor is in the George Smiley series of 8 books but the start of its own trilogy.
And many of the early books are not available in kindle or audiobook format that I prefer. So I picked up The Spy Who Came In From the Cold because it is the earliest of the series on audiobook, it is before Tinker Tailor and many people think it is le Carré’s best book.
I like spy books. There is something that both meets my needs for action and fast moving plot, and also some cerebral content that is more than many action books.
le Carré is known for writing cerebral spy novels. So while he has intrigued me, I have been a bit intimidated by the books. Most people that don’t like them say they are too slow or to cerebral. When I finally started this I listened to it straight through in just over a day. (It is only 7 hours.)
le Carré is a pen name for an actual British spy. He was not allowed to write under his own name for security reasons. The weaknesses of the spy world and the mind bending planning of a spy to double or triple cross either your bosses or your enemies are realistic in feel.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is primarily about a spy that is either trying to double or triple cross the East Germans. Throughout the book you think you know what is going on, but you are never quite sure that you really have the whole picture.
The ending is unconventional. It is not what I expected from a spy novel and I think that is why many reviews suggest that this book really changed the way that we think about spy novels. It was le Carré third novel and its success allow him to leave MI6 and become a full time author (in 1963).
If you like spy fiction and have not read le Carré this seems like a good place to start. I will move on and read some more of his books over the next couple months.
Other Bookwi.se Reviewed Spy Novels
- Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn
- The Cry of the Halidon by Robert Ludlum
- An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
- Once a Spy by Keith Thomson
- Twice a Spy by Keith Thomson
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
- The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carré
- Smiley’s People by John le Carré
- A Murder of Quality by John le Carré
- Call for the Dead by John le Carré