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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His name's Smiley. George Smiley...
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...
Published on 10 Aug 2009 by Rowena Hoseason

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where Smiley began - a little rough but a good intro into Le Carre
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...
Published on 16 Nov 2011 by Tom Hobbs


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start with George Smiley, 30 April 2011
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
I bought this on impulse a few years ago to give le Carre's spy stories another try, having only previously read The Honourable Schoolboy (HS) when it was first published. I could tell that HS was a well-written novel but can see now that it was not the place to start as there are so many resonances from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that I didn't understand and which I felt I need to know to understand what was going on. Call for the Dead made me realise what I was missing in not having read his novels and I have since gone on to read everything he has written (in order of publication) and incidentally come to appreciate The Honourable Schoolboy much more.

Call for the Dead is a short novel, more a detective story than a spy story, with a (relatively) less complex plot than le Carre's later novels. It brings us something of George Smiley's history, his love of things German, his notoriously wayward wife Ann whose presence or absence from his life is a theme running through the later novels, Peter Guillam and Inspector Mendel who will be so important in later stories. The characters are developing here but we do get the intelligent, thoughtful, decidedly unglamorous, somewhat detached Smiley who is often at odds with his superiors. A very good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A spying whodunnit which achieves its objectives, 26 April 2009
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This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
I last read Call for the Dead in the early 1970s when I was fourteen or fifteen. I have changed a great deal since then along with everything else, but my enjoyment of this compact spying whodunnit does not seem to have changed much in the intervening 35 years. The plot is intricate without being overcomplicated. The three murders, one attempted murder and, at the end, the death of a killer while resisting arrest are the main focus, not the characters.

The great George Smiley and his colleagues, Guillam and Mendel, are rather colourless. Elsa Fennan, a murder victim whose presence is felt throughout the book, is certainly not colourless, but bizarre. But the emphasis on action rather than characterisation is as it should be given the genre. The novel is of course well-written, though occasionally the descriptions of people and situations seemed overlong.

Part of the appeal for me is connected with the atmosphere of the familiar but dreary world of London and the home counties in the 1950s and 1960s: the trilby hats, membership of local repertory clubs and telephone numbers like Primrose 0098, alongside the more lasting landmarks of London and Whitehall. Le Carre makes this world at once mundane and sinister with the horrors of the Second World continuing to cast its shadows and the lurking threat of the then Communist block even making itself felt in respectable suburbia. This is the classic background to a Cold War spy novel which Le Carre excels at creating.

Call for the Dead was Le Carre's first published work. I read and greatly enjoyed his novels till the late 1970s, but I have found most of what he wrote afterwards heavy-going and sometimes a little portentous. The usual explanation I am given is the end of the Cold War, but the development of Le Carre's writing is also partly a reason.

The early Le Carre novels beginning with Call for the Dead should continue to be read, whether or not one shares my nostalgia for their subject-matter.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a good introduction to George Smiley, 8 Mar 2001
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This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
If you haven't read any of the Smiley books, this short book is a good place to start. Written and set at the height of the Cold War, George Smiley is seen by the Department as a 'has-been' and is restricted to routine work. In the course of this he does a routine interview of a senior civil servant. Even though he assures the man that he is perfectly satisfied, the man apparently commits suicide. The twists and turns of the plot are well-told and satisfying and the answer to the mystery are not telegraphed too early. Overall, a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A blast from the past ‒ for both of us, 24 July 2014
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
"Smiley was no material for promotion and it dawned on him gradually that he had entered middle age without ever being young, and that he was ‒ in the nicest possible way ‒ on the shelf." ‒ from CALL FOR THE DEAD

I've been a tremendous fan of John le Carré's George Smiley for years. How could one not be, especially after having seen the BBC's exemplary television adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy : Complete BBC Series [DVD] [1979] and Smiley's People [1982] [DVD], both starring Alec Guinness?

CALL FOR THE DEAD was first published in 1962 when I was but thirteen. (It's hard to believe I was ever that juvenile. I may have read the book in the intervening years, though I suspect not. But, alas, memory fails.)

At this late date after Smiley has disappeared from le Carré's repertoire and Sir Alec is deceased, the chief delight for me in CALL FOR THE DEAD was learning about George's induction into the Secret Service, his early assignments recruiting and running German agents against the Nazi regime, and his marriage to Ann. Even Smiley was young once, though he apparently missed the high points.

Smiley's introduction to the readers of spy fiction takes place in his world of 1961 when George, while investigating the apparent suicide of a Foreign Office official shortly after being interviewed (by George) regarding his wartime membership in the Communist Party, encounters a blast from his own wartime past.

To those who've followed George's adventures over the years, it's evident in CALL FOR THE DEAD ‒ which was also the author's very first novel ‒ that the Smiley's character is in for considerable development over future years. Indeed, George must rely on the efforts of others, particularly an Inspector Mendel, to bring this case to a successful conclusion. Without Mendel, I doubt that Smiley would've pulled it off. In le Carré's later stories featuring George , especially when he's up against the Soviet master-spy controller Karla, our hero takes center stage, however low key and inscrutable in manner, and relinquishes it to no one.

For readers of today's younger generations who may only be familiar with the author's most recent works and know nothing of Smiley, CALL FOR THE DEAD is the place to start. The Cold War is over, but George is timeless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Muffled Voices In The London Fog, 8 April 2013
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I have two reservations about this production - firstly, the sound quality generally (it just isn't very clear/audible for long periods - bit of a handicap for an audiobook), and secondly, Simon Russell Beale as Smiley . . . SRB may be a fine actor but he has a very anonymous radio voice, and while George Smiley may be supposed to be a background figure in 'the service', this all hinders the presentation of a distinctive Smiley persona here. Despite these reservations, in "Call For The Dead", the surrounding cast, the ghostly presence of the ex-wife and the story (war-time spies re-emerge into London's fog) are all strong enough to be make this absorbing listening. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Call for the Dead, 22 Feb 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Kindle Edition)
This is the first George Smiley novel and introduces us to the characters which, as a reader, you will come to love. It is fair to say that Le Carre's spy novels are more Harry Palmer than 007; he aims for realism and not fantasy, which I find much more intriguing. Smiley is not attractive, or dashing. His ex wife, the beautiful Lady Ann Seacomb, caused surprise and gossip when they married - she nicknamed him 'Toad' and, unlike a Bond character, who always gets the girl, she leaves him for a Cuban motor racing driving.

Despite Smiley's squat and unprepossing looks though, he has something far more attractive - intelligence in abundance, as well as great humanity and sensitivity to others. When asked to interview Samuel Fennan, at the Foreign Office, who has been anonymously accused of being a communist sympathiser, Smiley conducts the meeting with tact. He even goes so far as to tell Fennan not to worry, which is why he is so suprised when Fennan supposedly returns home devastated and later commits suicide. Something does not add up and Smiley sets out to find out what really happened. This is a world of real danger, where Smiley is almost killed and others murdered, where people are really hurt and suffer the consequences of their actions. A really intelligent novel and a great introduction to the Smiley books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'secret origin' of George Smiley..., 10 Aug 2009
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
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.
9/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 1960s spy story. Understated and brilliant, 10 Aug 2009
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
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.
9/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Class acts never fade, 9 July 2009
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Le Carre's earlier works which I read almost as they were published, are not just classics of the spy-fiction genre. They are classics of English literature. Thanks to the BBC, the entire "Smiley" saga is being broadcast as radio play dramatisations. Call For The Dead is a short book, but contains all the drama, scene setting, characterisation, plot twists and wry social commentary of an espionage/detective thriller. Its also entertaining and challenging, in the way that goods books should be.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Debut Novel Shows Flashes of Gold to Come, 5 Jun 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Call for the Dead (Paperback)
"Call for the Dead," was John LeCarre's first novel, and first George Smiley novel: it was an astonishing debut. In her Foreword to the 1961 reissue, P.D. James wrote, "The novel is a finely wrought and compelling mixture of three types of crime writing:...a thriller, the spy story...and the detective story...."

Much shorter than his great works to come, really novella length, the book works ingeniously on all three levels. We are, firstly, kept breathlessly guessing at what will come next. We are then fascinated by the spy craft, a subject LeCarre knows from his years in the intelligence-gathering business. We meet George Smiley, a character who will turn up in LeCarre's later, great spy stories, and also a handful of other characters who will turn up again too. We can, finally, follow the clues of the mystery well enough. The currently desk-bound, formerly assigned in Germany, British spy Smiley is sent to interview a just-promoted Foreign Service employee, Samuel Fennan, after an anonymous letter accuses the man of Communist leanings.

The interview goes pleasantly enough, spent in a London park watching the ducks and swans, and Smiley comes as close as he may to reassuring Fennan that his report will clear him. Nevertheless, Fennan apparently tells his wife that the interview was an ordeal, and commits suicide. The Foreign Service Officer supposedly leaves a note that reads, in part, "I cannot spend my remaining years under a cloud of disloyalty and suspicion. I realize that my career is ruined, that I am the victim of paid informers." Yet, many features of the crime scene, including an 8:30 wake up call the dead man had requested for the next morning, do not ring right to Smiley: it calls out for further investigation. This investigation will, as is frequently the case, prove dangerous to many people, including Smiley, and will result in Smiley's once again crossing paths, and swords, with an extraordinary one-time German protege of his.

The book is beautifully written, long on wit, though short on the midnight mandarin meetings that will become a mainstay of LeCarre's later works. Characters are fully rounded, and treated with a compassion that will not always survive to his later books. LeCarre also here begins by flashing us his ability to open a book with a bang: a first chapter entitled "A Brief History of George Smiley" is enough to leave us hungry for more.
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