In this classic, John le Carre’s third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career but undertakes one final, bone-chilling assignment. When the last agent under his command is killed and Alec Leamas is called back to London, he hopes to come in from the cold for good. His spymaster, Control, however, has other plans. Determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization, Control once more sends Leamas into the fray — this time to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to his ultimate defeat.
Leamas is an old fox, a field agent a bit too old for his job, but who isn’t fit for a desk job either. He’s trying to hang on, but things go terribly wrong and he’s brought back home and put on the shelf until retirement. He starts to drink, avoid his colleagues and have money trouble. His life becomes a slippery slope and he ends up in jail. It’s just a bit too convenient according to some.
Leamas is close, closer than he’s ever been, to exacting on the revenge on the man who cost him his ring of agents and informants, the man who cost him his job and life, Mundt.
There isn’t that much action in this book. There is a flashback to a car chase and a brutal beating that happens off page, but other than that it’s another boring, dry battle of intellects. It’s about lying and packaging the truth in a way it’ll be missed. And it’s a sad story of a man who is terribly good at it.
I can definitely see why this book made le Carré famous but it isn’t quite as good as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. No, it’s just a warm up for the big event.