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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2006
This is the second of Le Carre's Smiley trilogy. Following the Secret Services uncovering of a Russian mole Smiley is put in charge to rebuild the battered and demoralised service.

We follow the exploits of Gerald Westerbury as he sets out to uncover the destination of $500,000 of funds transferred to a trust account in Hong Kong by the Russians. Jerry has to discover what this money is for.

There is cross and double cross by the main protaginists as there are several stories running in tandem. As Smiley plots he is under pressure from the Americans and the machinations of his own political masters. Does anyone know what is happening or who is planning what?

What is Drake Ho, the Chinese industrialist, up to? Who is Liese Worth? Did Ricardo, a drug running CIA pilot, die in Laos? What is the role of drake's dead brother in everything?

In typical Carre fashion the story is told in the third person, as though reminising after the fact. We are led through the events after they happened. We know that something major is waiting but not what exactly.

The hero of the piece is Westerbury. He is the old school spy, sent in as a journalist and left to run with little support. We see the efforts of a demoralised agency trying to rebuild and inject a new pride.

Another great story from the master of Cold War spying.
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on 15 February 2010
I am working my way through the new BBC John LeCarre series and loving every minute of them. The production is crisp and clear, the acting exemplary and the adaptations convey all the drama and tension you want from a cold war thriller.

At three hours long this is perfect for a long car journey or, as I did, a long afternoon sitting in the chair as the cold grey skies rolled past outside the window. As they say, radio has the best pictures and these are better than most movies.
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on 24 April 2000
This book, the second in the so-called "Smiley versus Karla" trilogy, is bar none, Le Carre's best novel. It is about a complicated ploy by George Smiley, now re-instated in the circus and it's new head, to gain revenge on Karla and Moscow Centre over it's decades long humiliation by the hands of a British spy. The novel is primarily based in the far east, mainly in Hong Kong and reaching out to war-torn Cambodia. The man on the scene, set to land the coup, is Jerry Westerby, a sometime news Reporter, a some time spy for the circus. Unfortunately for him, the cards are stacked against him from the outset. I would read Tinker Tailor before reading this novel, so as to have much of the background knowledge needed. But in my mind this is LeCarre's finest work. Pity the excellent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Smiley's People didn't have this gem filmed along with them as well.
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on 3 January 2012
I'm pretty new to Le Carre. I read 'The Spy Who Came in from The Cold' and was blown away. It's dark, it's realistic - it's the dirty, unglamorous world of what you'd imagine spying must really be like.

I read 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' and though it was a bit slow at times, I loved it. Great story - makes you really work at it but it's really rewarding too.

When I realised 'Tinker Tailor' was part of a trilogy, I thought I must read the rest.

'The Honorable Schoolboy' is the second in the trilogy and you must read 'Tinker Tailor' first. It's a good story, a good development of 'Tinker Tailor' showing how Smiley tries to rebuild a shattered service with little support or thanks from the political masters.

However.... it's 686 pages long. You're 80 pages in before the intrigue first starts to get opened up. You're 150 pages in before there's anything very exciting. It's split into two halves, the second of which is paced much better but he really drags his heals. I would love to edit this book - at 450 pages, it could be a very worthy sequel to 'Tinker Tailor'. As it stands, it takes an effort of will - or good skimming skills - to stay with it.

I bought the final one - 'Smiley's People' - and note it's only 450 pages long. Perhaps he had more confidence in himself by this stage to just get down to the meat and potatoes and cut the waffle. Fingers crossed.
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on 26 December 2000
This remains my favorite le Carre novel.It has everything you expect from him, being beautifully written,well paced and with a great feeling for the locations and people.But with this book le Carre has created a most likable hero in Jerry Westerby.Tough,romantic but essentially niave he is a perfect foil to the the fantastically corrupt asia of the last days of the Vietnam war. .The novel builds beautifully having introduced and combined plots,sub plots and a great cast of weird and wonderful bit players rouges, cynics and soldiers as Jerry faithfully follows the orders of his mentor George and plans to betray him.Great stuff.
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If you loved Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and want to know what happens next, this is what happens. The Circus, rocked by the Bill Haydon betrayal, is placed in the hands of George Smiley, who brings back in Peter Guillam, Connie Sachs and old faithful the newspaper stringer Jerry Westerby, the 'Honourable Schoolboy' of the title. But the Circus charter and budget are dramatically curtailed, and there is a good chance that the Circus will not survive at all. Circus centres across the world are closed down, including the famous Hong Kong residence. British Secret Intelligence seems blind, and this is exactly the way Carla wanted it.

With a bare minimum of resources, Smiley starts to track Carla's 'handwriting', discovering a potential mole of the Bill Haydon type embedded in the Chinese communist hierarchy. With Westerby despatched to Hong Kong as the legman, Smiley begins a complex process of triangulating the elusive Nelson Ko, which eventually results in a magnificent sting which... well, enough of the spoilers. It doesn't end the way you expect it to.

This is by far the most expansive of the Smiley books, with Westerby traipsing through war torn South East Asia, escaping death often by no more than a whisker. Back in London, we see Smiley and his team in their element, doing all the things which we most wish they would be allowed to do, and leaving the Americans in the dust as they do it.

My only criticism of this book is that it tends a little towards self-indulgence, with old chums back running the Circus like what they should, with enough camaraderie and table-tennis to give the Famous Five a run for their money. However, it's a minor point, and most readers will lap it up, at least on the first time through. It's what Smiley deserves, after all.

This is immensely exciting, and moves towards the James Bond territory for once. It is an excellent counter point to the dangerous games of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and the austere silences of Smiley's People.
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on 22 June 2016
Another holiday book from France, which I was reluctant to even pick up because I was so disappointed by The Night Manager and because it followed on from Tinker Taylor, one of my all-time top ten novels and I didn’t want it either spoiled or to be just left feeling disappointed again.
686 pages – Gawd.

It has terrific reviews on Amazon; five star, five star, five star although I can’t find for example reviews from The Times or The Guardian from the time. I am sure they liked it.

As I have written before, I loved Tinker Taylor, I have read it twice in fact and watched the Alec Guinness television adaption at least once. But after the disappointment of the Night Manager, I was wary of picking up yet another John LeCarre. However around about page 250 I actually thought the thought, ‘this is the best book I have ever read’. It is so beautifully crafted, it takes your breath away. Line after amazing line. I loved this, among many:

‘She would be funny, he decided. If Lizzie were here she would definitely see a funny side and laugh at it. Somewhere among all her imitations, he reckoned, there was a lost original, and he definitely intended to find it.’

Haven’t we all at some point in our lives thought those thoughts about someone we fancy? It’s what makes the world go round.

But that turns out to be the last great line and we are in to LeCarre the dirty old man: Korean whores; Bangkok whores; Eurasian whores, whatever they might be and of course because it is largely set in Hong Kong, Chinese whores. Never-ending racial stereotyping. Never-ending misogyny. And every character is explored in minute detail, Lizzies mother, Ko’s son, Captain Urquhart, there is a supporting cast of hundreds. Maybe that is what readers wanted back in the day [1977] God, its not what this reader wants today. So, so dated and the whole thing drags almost to a standstill, when the Americans stick their oar in.

I finished it, but If ever a novel needed a strong editor this is it.
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on 5 September 2008
THS forms number 2 in the Smiley / Karla trilogy - although as any Le Carré reader knows some characters pop up in other stories.
For me this novel is the pinnacle of Le Carré's writing. It's brilliantly constructed. It's undoubtedly a densely packed novel - one friend couldn't manage to read it "because there were too many words". I found and still find it to be a brilliant story, incredibly well written. I've re-read it several times and my current copy, bought sometime in the late 70s, is falling apart through over-use. One reviewer, whose comments are on my copy, states that in his opinion, THS was one of the finest English novels of the 70s. I've always agreed with this. Of the three Smiley/ Karla books THS has been my favourite since I first read it. Many words there may be but how they're put together makes this one of the best novels written in English. For James Bond spy fiction fans this probably is not for you. For those who appreciate brilliant writing then enjoy it.
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on 10 December 2011
Many reviews have already covered the storyline and its place in the trilogy.

I read this as a one off and it works well. The characters are drawn with style, the plot is thick enough and twisted enough without being confusing, there is plenty of painstaking investigation, and some action. It's beautifully woven to keep you occupied and with switches between London and the Far East, enough variety of location.

Whether you are a fan of the author is irrelevant. This is just a good spy story that stands alone, or as part of a trilogy. Well worth a read if you like spy thrillers. Not worth a read if you get bored with detailed investigations.
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on 10 July 2012
I have two major problems with this book. One is the story itself. As a sequel to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy it lacks the pace of the previous book. The story is slow to get going and really drags in places. I understand that this book was never adapted for TV because they couldn't afford to film in the Far East. If they had tried to adapt it, they would probably have cut or 'edited' huge chunks of it.

Which brings me to my second problem with this book - editing (or lack of it). Or perhaps the problem is proof-reading. A previous reviewer commented on words running together and blamed Amazon for lack of quality control. I'll place the blame where it should be - the publisher. Amazon can't check every book they sell and has to rely on the publisher getting things right. This is one case where the publisher got it wrong.

I've read Tinker, Tailor on Kindle and didn't have anything like the problems I had with this book. I'm hoping I won't have these problems with Smiley's People, which I also own on Kindle.
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