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Call for the Dead (George Smiley series Book 1)

Call for the Dead (George Smiley series Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

John le Carré
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense . . . excellent writing' (Observer )

'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising . . . makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard' (Sunday Telegraph)


'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense ... excellent writing.' (The Observer)

'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising ... makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard.' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'A subtle and acute story of counterespionage marked by restraint, indirection, and intelligence.' (The New York Times Book Review)

'Smiley is one of the most brilliantly realised characters in British fiction. Bespectacled, tubby, eternally middle-aged, and deceptively ordinary, he has a mind like a steel trap and is said to possess "the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin".' (

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 285 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 Nov 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005VEELE6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,432 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931. His third novel, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, secured him a wide reputation which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, THE HONOURABLE SCHOOLBOY and SMILEY'S PEOPLE. His other novels include THE CONSTANT GARDENER, A MOST WANTED MAN and OUR KIND OF TRAITOR.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His name's Smiley. George Smiley... 10 Aug 2009
This is the book which started it all; the gripping series of intrigue, betrayal and an examination of human nature which has become the ultimate espionage collection.
This is the first of Le Carre's books and it contains the secret origin of George Smiley AND a rippingly good little espionage mystery. It introduces Mundt, too, who becomes rather more important in later novels. Le Carre set out to provide an antidote to Ian Fleming's James Bond, and Smiley truly is the thinking person's hero; a man who considers everything, fluffs sudden decisions, can be nakedly human when it comes to the woman he loves -- and chillingly calculating in achieving his other goals.
It's also a really taut thriller, not like modern gargantuan monsters of 900-odd pages. Back in 1960-something, Le Carre could cram an encyclopedia of insight into a single sentence. It's also fascinating to find that although written nearly half a century ago, 'Call For The Dead' is just as compelling as modern fiction can be. As a fan of 'period spy stories', the books of Alan Furst being high on that list, I'm delighted to discover that the originals are every bit as good.
Two hours of reading bliss.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Le Carre's first novel sees the introduction of George Smiley who would later become the pivotal hero of so many of the author's works. Here the introduction embellishes the reader with swathes of detail of Smiley's background, as he investigates the mysterious death of a Foreign Office worker, Samuel Fennan, whose passing is shrouded in mystery.

Arguably closer to a murder mystery than a spy story, Le Carre's initial foray into novel writing is a clear marker for his punchy style to come.

In the context of other works this acts as a bit of background, especially as his 3rd book, the superior The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Penguin Modern Classics), often references "the Fennan Case". It also provides the first glimpse at Smiley and actually offers much more information on Smiley's heritage than is later provided in other works.

As a stand alone work though, the story is a little short and the plot is not overly developed but the signs of Le Carre are certainly there and the brevity is therefore unsurprising.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read if you like his work. 23 Oct 2007
As always, meticulous plotted with some strong observations in terms of character. I wrote this review in disgust at one of the reviewers on here who thought that it was too far fetched that a spy would join an amateur dramatic society to meet with a contact. They should stick to James Bond, which is far removed from the real world of esponiage. Le Carre's spy writing generally does not embellish on the technical wizardry of the CIA, instead relying on character and human nature to sell itself to the reader. It is far more realistic than other novels, showing that spying is more mundane than the stereotypical Hollywood or James Bond image. This is what makes Le Carre's work more humane, and that is true of Call for the Dead, which delves deeply into the pysche of the dead man and his wife. One of the most memorable bits of the book for me is the way that Smiley deals with someone in his house who has been sent to murder him; almost the anti-Bond you might say! Well worth the purchase price.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive debut. 26 Sep 1999
The first of Le Carre's novels, this marks the fictional debut of George Smiley. This is a downbeat and perhaps slightly parochial tale played out in an early-sixties London really still recovering from World War 2. Smiley is at the nadir of his career; moved sideways into security clearing civil servants. Why does one of the men he interviews commit suicide? The investigation leads Smiley back through his own past as an agent and through the early Cold War.
A novel which has much to say about post-war Britain, about the frailty of human relationships in the Great Game of espionage, but its main interest is in the way it establishes the character of George Smiley.
A few inconsistencies with the later novels - in particular, Peter Guillam is presented as a near-contemporary of Smiley's, whereas he is later reinvented as a younger man.
On the whole, an excellent debut, setting the tone for the later novels.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just wonderful 24 Feb 2010
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Read the book, many times. Love Le Carre and therefore biased. The audiobook read, I think, by the Author is also great. However this production, although abridged, is a delight. Listen to the play on a long car journey or just relax at home and listen as if a radio play (which it is) and the magic of the BBC production and Le Carres writing shine through.
Well worth it, even if I am an unashamed fan!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I had expected.
I found it hard to care about any of the characters. Surprisingly slight.
Published 2 days ago by Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent transaction - many thanks
Excellent transaction - many thanks
Published 8 days ago by Mr Alan Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Again, this is a gift for my father who ...
Again, this is a gift for my father who is blind so can't really comment. Delivery etc. well within specified date.
Published 13 days ago by Mrs Nicola Heselton
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't miss with Smiley
Wonderful and intriguing dialogue. Characters all believable. Le Carre has the knack of describing a situation without using that many words.
Published 21 days ago by Richard Hood
3.0 out of 5 stars tedious sometimes.
Heavy reading, tedious sometimes.
Published 28 days ago by James T
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Quite good
Published 1 month ago by RICHARD LITTLE
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good story
Published 1 month ago by PMR
4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Smiley
This is a chance to see La Carre develop the back story of Smiley and gives the first sighting of Mengle, one of the minor charecters who later comes up in TinkerTaylor.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. M. A. Simpson
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
havent read it yet
Published 2 months ago by peter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read.
An excellent book,that just tempts you into wanting more of Smiley,and a time when the pace of life in London was not so hectic but just as mysterious.
Published 3 months ago by O Mac
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