2008: 147. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

“The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, ‘Why don’t you go back and sleep? We can ring you if he shows up.”

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

This is a dark (and thus totally believable) spy novel.  The protagonist, Leamus, is running the Berlin spy operations for England when his number one agent is made by the East Germans, and is shot.  Leamus is brought home (since his operation has fallen apart), and thinks he will be forced to end out his career at a desk job - the last thing a man of action like him wants.  So, when instead our old friend George Smiley (remember him?) offers him a chance to go after the man who caught his spy, he jumps at it - even if it means he needs to pretend to defect himself.  Thus starts an elaborate plan starting with him returning to England, becoming an alcoholic, getting sacked from intelligence work (always called “the Circus”), and ending up in a third rate job - then prison.  And then the story really begins, as he is contacted by the Germans and defects to the other side.  The twists and turns are both devastating and believable (Le Carre certainly captures the cold horror of Communism without making the English look like heroes, either), and the ending is both horrible, and utterly true.  It is cliched to say that John Le Carre writes books that make you believe that this was real spying is like (and how would we ever know if he really has?), but it’s nonetheless true.  


Date/Place Completed: 9/30/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017