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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Old Fashioned Spy Thriller
This is a great change in pace against normal spy books. There are no wiz bangs and gorgeous women. It just revolves around old fashioned atmosphere and storytelling.

We follow the expolits of George Smiley, one of the Cold War's heroes, as he is tasked with finding a Soviet mole imbedded within MI6. He was ousted in a shake-up following the overthrow, and...
Published on 8 Nov 2006 by J. E. Parry

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold war espionage
I have read a few reviews that expressed problems with following the book and the reviewer had to watch the film to understand what was going on or vice versa. I can sympathise with these reviews, I had a similar experience myself when I started the book. For me, I think the problem was the straightforward narrative - plot twists don't have any big lead in or any more...
Published on 18 Mar 2012 by pigsmayfly


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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Old Fashioned Spy Thriller, 8 Nov 2006
By 
J. E. Parry "Jeff Parry" (Pontypool, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This is a great change in pace against normal spy books. There are no wiz bangs and gorgeous women. It just revolves around old fashioned atmosphere and storytelling.

We follow the expolits of George Smiley, one of the Cold War's heroes, as he is tasked with finding a Soviet mole imbedded within MI6. He was ousted in a shake-up following the overthrow, and demise, of the previous "Control" of MI6 - another name for James Bond's M.

He is outside the current regime that the mole is part of and his search is therefore reliant on old fashioned techniques of infiltarion and intelligence gathering.

I hadn't read this in about 20 years but was swept back into Smiley's world. Le Carre has a reputation for outstanding work and this is one of his best.

I won't give the game away as I hate plot spoilers. If you want to read an authentic Cold War spy story then this is for you.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philby, 18 Sep 2009
An excellent book which transcends the spy genre and dissects brilliantly the moral condition of human beings in the iciest days of the cold war: an atmosphere of ethical and political confusion/ambivalence, petty ambition and careless treachery pervades the whole work and provides a convincing backdrop for the examination of the nature of patriotism and the defence of a limited and faulty but ultimately worthy western liberalism.

And yet it is a book in which very little happens - it feels like a collection of dusty papers, assiduously compiled reports found in a filing cabinet in the corner of a room in Whitehall two decades after the fact... The ponderously procedural and bureaucratic nature of intelligence work, and the consequent difficulty of accessing "truth" are very well manipulated by LeCarre who develops the plot as a series of episodic vignettes, hazily recollected by some unseen witness.

The characters, their conversations and innermost thoughts, the themes and the all-too real denouement are utterly convincing, precisely because Le Carre is able to portray the mundane, humdrum nature of intelligence work and, above all, the plain, bitter-sweet patriotism of his hero, George Smiley.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 5 Aug 2005
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This is probably the finest of Le Carre's novels. His great creation, George Smiley, is repsonsible for finding a Soviet mole in the heirarchy of British Intelligence which has done immeasureable damage for decades. George is the most unlikely hero - ponderous, old, shy, retiring, but posessed of enormous compassion and iron will. This who-dunnit story plays against a general background of betrayal - the betrayal of the mole against the British state, the betrayal of the agents run by the mole, the betrayal of Smiley's wife's infidelity, the general betrayal of idealism in the Circus to the mundane self-serving ends of its leaders.
And then there is the setting - Britain in all its drab, mundane 1960's/70's glory. Drab colours, poor food, rain soaked days, steamed up car windows, snobbery and poverty. And the dialogue is second to none. So world weary, so wise. And the intelligence world rings true in this book too, it feels realistic, it feels about right. The moral ambiguity is embraced by Le Carre. Though there are heroes and villians in this book, the boundaries are fairly blurred.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre at his considerable best, 13 Feb 2008
By 
Mr. S. Harris (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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Not only is this probably Le Carre's best work, but I'd rate it as one of the best novels of the 1970s. It perfectly captures the feeling of Britain's post-war decline and nostalgia for a greater time. It is a beautifully written, highly convincing story of the hunt for a high-ranking mole in the British Secret Service, with the effect of this on the memorable central characters (not least unlikely hero George Smiley) subtly portrayed. A gripping, immensely satisfying Cold-War thriller. And a great novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George Smiley takes on the Soviet Union, Part One, 2 Feb 2010
This review is from: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Paperback)
After publishing three books with George Smiley (GS) in a major or minor role, and one spy novel without him (A Small Town in Germany), John Le Carré (JLC) produced the monumental "Karla"- trilogy with GS as the undisputed hero.
This volume, first published in 1974, is Part One of the trilogy and in this reviewer's opinion JLC's very best creation among many other masterpieces. The principal theme in the book is the search for a "mole", an inside man turned traitor, within the higher echelons of the Circus, which runs some 600 agents worldwide. There have been inexplicable failures and disappointments. Control, the nameless head of the Circus is becoming suspicious of all of his staff, at a time when his health is declining rapidly. He becomes an increasingly marginalised person, poring over piles and piles of files, when a new source managed by a man keen to take Control's place, begins to enthral Whitehall with high quality reports...
Suddenly brought out of retirement, GS attends the debriefing of a rather dubious field agent and is requested to pursue the outcomes of the interview. In utter secrecy, GS starts his campaign to find the mole, aided by the trusted Peter Guillam and Retired Inspector (Special Branch) Mendel, who appeared first in JLC's debut Call for the Dead.
What makes this book exceptional is its plot, its dialogues, its atmosphere and more than ever, its characters. Chapter One about unhappy public schoolboy Bill "Jumbo" Roach meeting ex-betrayed spy, shot in the back, Jim "Rhino" Prideaux, ranks among the greatest first chapters in spy novels, on par with Trevanian's opening of The Loo Sanction. Totally brilliant.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tinker Tailor, 4 Aug 2002
By 
Andy H. Burns (Hamilton, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
To anyone who has not experienced a full dramatization, try this one. After many years of listening to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, it is the one title that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone with a love of the English language and of drama that leaves the listner imagine the set. The problem with a television adaptation of a theme or of a film version of a book, is that we are seeing an individual's interpretation of the events described. Spoonfed!
The difference with all of these excellent dramatizations, and with Tinker Tailor in particular, is that we are allowed to invent the scenery in our minds eye, to see the expressions, or just listen to a facinating story unfolding in the hands of people who really care, and who are at the peak of their craft. My hope is that many more people will find the same pleasure we have enjoyed for the past few years, and that the financial success of this format of media entertainment will be a guarantee of more excellent porductions to come.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Spy Story Ever?, 26 April 2009
By 
Axnettle "Ax" (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
...Well I haven't yet read a better one. Here's why:

Every one of the key protagonists has a character fully fleshed out with weaknesses, foibles, ambitions and (at times) quiet brilliance. Control, in his last days as Chief of the Secret Service ("Circus"), desperately seeks an infiltrator at the very top of the service. The key players are progressively revealed as consummate technicians and politicians in a very unglamorous occupation. With each individual, you can see how they got where they are, despite their flaws. Further down the pecking order of traitors, cheats, losers and lost souls, the same richness of character prevails. Of George Smiley himself, set on course to uncover the "mole", enough has been written. For me, it's his humanity and vulnerability that raise this book into the stratosphere.

The storyline is dense and engaging. The structure of the deception, as Smiley peels away each layer, is elegant and convincing. The reactions of the characters as each of them is affected by the denouement, ranges from the tragic to the darkly comic. This vein of doleful humour makes this the very best of Le Carre's work (which is saying something...)

There are no whizz-bangs, little action beyond raised voices, and absolutely no glamour. However, there is intelligence, subtlety, searing emotion and a sprinkling of pathos. The balanced written style, sometimes taut and sparse, elsewhere reflective and melancholy, is in a class of its own. Enjoy (perhaps?) the best espionage book ever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this!, 22 Mar 2010
By 
E. Heckingbottom "elaineheck143" (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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Having struggled with le Carre's books in the past, I wasn't sure whether I would really enjoy this ... I just picked it as something that might entertain me during longish car journeys. The other day, I had to drive to Cambridge for a course and, before I knew it, found myself totally engrosed in the story! This recording brought the plot to life for me in a way that even the television series had failed to do! The characters came alive, and the plot followed through fantastically, gripping me from beginning to end! I am officially hooked!

I shall definitely be ordering more in this series, and look forwards to many more happy hours spent in the car travelling around!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smiley read by John Le Carre, 5 Jun 2009
By 
L Weale - See all my reviews
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I was hoping for the BBC Radio Drama starring Bernard Hepton as George Smiley but I think that is unlikely now they are planning a series of Smiley dramas with Simon Russell Beale. This is the book read by John Le Carre and there is a lot to be said for it, John Le Carre has a good reading voice and a real feel for his characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am glad to have it in my collection. I will also look out the BBC Radio Dramas. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I still believe that the secret services are the only real expression of a nation's character.", 14 Dec 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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Following in the tradition of Graham Greene, who wrote spy novels contemporaneous with his own, John LeCarre uses his experience in the foreign service and MI6 to add realism to his tales of espionage. Green, however, remained a friend of traitor Kim Philby and continued to send his novels to Philby after Philby defected to Russia. LeCarre, however, was betrayed by Philby to Russian agents, and his career was ended. This betrayal gives added realism to his novels, which show real disillusionment with the system and, sometimes, with its agents and officials.

Written in 1974, this novel draws on the real life LeCarre (real name David Cornwell) and many of his associates who were unmasked by Philby and the "Cambridge Five." Here LeCarre creates a vivid and morally sensitive story in which his hero, George Smiley, is called out of his enforced retirement to unmask a Soviet "mole" high in the British secret service, referred to as "the circus." Five men (as in the real betrayal) have been suspected. Drawing on his friendships with some of the agents who were dismissed when he was, Smiley investigates the security leaks which have led to humiliation for British intelligence and real danger for some of its agents. As he tries to identify the mole, he receives peripheral help from Sir Oliver Lacon of the British Foreign Office.

Written in formal and polished prose, the novel is full of Cold War complexities. Karla, the legendary head of Soviet intelligence, continues to control a small group of Soviet "defectors" and disillusioned Communists, whom the British mistakenly regard as double agents providing them with secret information. At the same time, British Control (who is never identified by name) is trying to uncover the Soviet mole (nicknamed "Gerald") within their own agency. Jim Prideaux, who appears in several Smiley novels, is working on this operation in Czechoslovakia, but he is betrayed and almost killed, his entire operation shut down, and many of his agents executed by the Russians.

Smiley's investigations are decidedly prosaic, not the exciting shoot-'em-ups of James Bond novels. Slogging through mountains of paperwork, interviewing reluctant former agents, and doing his own legwork, Smiley works at unmasking Gerald the hard way. The complexity of his character (and of the other characters here) make up for the relative lack of dramatic action and highlight LeCarre's skill at creating intriguing characters who see the "grays" in an otherwise black-and-white world. His dialogue is quick-paced, often witty, and revelatory of subtle character traits, adding to the depth of the portraits and to the intricacies of the world of spy/counterspy. n Mary Whipple
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré (Paperback - 2011)
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