This is the first of a series of BBC adaptations of all John Le Carre's Smiley books, starring Simon Russell Beale as Smiley. Unlike the other reviewers I've never read the book, so cannot comment on textual accuracy.
The story introduces us to George Smiley, the devious, cunning and ruthless spy who presents an image of bumbling donnish eccentricity to the world. The story centres around the fall out from the suicide of a man who was suspected of being a spy, but cleared by Smiley only hours before his death. An incendiary suicide note raises questions about Smiley's own conduct, he must investigate not only to get to the real truth, but also to clear his own name. Things soon get deep and dark, as layers of obfuscation are peeled back to reveal a conspiracy that has its roots in Smiley's own past activities in pre-war Germany.
This is really a gripping listen. As with all Le Carre novels there is a rich, complex atmosphere of paranoia, coupled with a twisting, turning plot. The actors really give of their best to bring the characters to life, especially Beale, who evokes memories of Alec Guinness, but manages to put his own stamp on the role. Plaudits must also go to Kenneth Cranham as the practical and worldly Mendel, a Special Branch officer who gets drawn into Smiley's investigations.
The sound production is similarly well done, the whole thing really evokes the feeling of clammy foggy London, with the furtive, paranoid world of the protagonists.
There are two hour long episodes, each on a separate disc, in a normal size jewel case. There are limited liner notes with a short essay about Le Carre and a cast list.
This is a quality production, I look forward to hearing the others in the series.