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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Cold War Spy Novel
This book has a ring of authenticity about it. The seedier side of London and Berlin is beautifully described. There are no Bond-like gadgets, car chases or roof-top pursuits, yet I found this to be one of the best novels of the genre I have ever read; more gripping, and in some places faster-paced, than a lot of action-based thrillers. The plot is revealed rather like an...
Published on 19 Mar 2004 by Geoff Chilton

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic Le Carre
A cleverly written spy thriller which manages to be exciting whilst still realistic. There's nothing glamorous about the life of the spy in a Le Carre novel. This book focuses on Alec Leamas, an ageing spy who has one last extremely dangerous mission to complete before he can retire - 'come in from the cold'. The plot is intricate and clever, full of bluff and...
Published on 14 Feb 2009 by BookWorm


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Cold War Spy Novel, 19 Mar 2004
By 
This book has a ring of authenticity about it. The seedier side of London and Berlin is beautifully described. There are no Bond-like gadgets, car chases or roof-top pursuits, yet I found this to be one of the best novels of the genre I have ever read; more gripping, and in some places faster-paced, than a lot of action-based thrillers. The plot is revealed rather like an onion - sections of skin peeled back to reveal another and yet another. The character of Alec Leamas remains elusive throughout and at the end I felt I still didn't know him; he is secretive, like the Service he works for. Despite this I never felt cheated or disappointed. This is a great read, indeed nothing less than a modern classic.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, 18 Sep 2009
By 
Matthew Culley (England, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The Spy who Came in from the Cold is the story of Alec Leamas, a fictional British spy, set towards the end of his career. The setting is the early 1960s, largely in London, Berlin and East Germany (the GDR).

The writing is of high standard, almost Homeric in nature. It has a sparse, exact quality that seems far from the style of creative writing courses. The evocation of the 1960s Cold War world is well done. Le Carre's focus has always been on the human aspects of the spy game, so fans of James Bond and Jason Bourne may be disappointed. The emotions and travails that spies must suffer are represented here: the difficulties of forming and maintaining relationships and of having to live multiple realities are described in this work.

Those who like moral certainties and absolute good and bad guys in their spy stories may also be disappointed. This was the nature of the Cold War and thus of the spy games that NATO and the Warsaw Pact played. Elizabeth is something of an idealistic member of the Communist party in Britain, who then confronts the reality of Communism in East Germany, and then to great tragedy. The main protagonist, Leamas, will eventually realise the horrific, amoral nature of the game he is in.

This is not a book about heroic spies with a happy, world-saving end, but it is a brilliant read, and signalled the beginning of Le Carre's very successful career. I greatly recommend it.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic of the Genre, 28 April 2003
"The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" is, without doubt, the classic Cold War thriller. It is the novel by which others of the genre have to be judged. Almost all will be found wanting.
For this work Le Carre's prose is lean with not a word wasted. Indeed, some readers may find the style too austere. However, to my mind, it captures the mood of the time. There is not an ounce of fat and every word counts.
The problem which the young reader may encounter (i.e. anybody born after, say, 1985) is that the story is set in a world far removed from today. The knowledge that Le Carre would have assumed even the casual reader had is now lacking. A little bit of background research may be required so that the concepts of "Democratic Germany" and "The Party" can be appreciated.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent introduction to both Le Carre and also the fascinating Cold War era.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's masterpiece, 19 Oct 2009
By 
Bill (Cornwall, UK) - See all my reviews
Having read, and in many cases re-read, everything le Carre has written, including the disappointing and excessively mannered recent work, this is the book I keep coming back to. In it le Carre encapsulated everything he wanted to say about the dirty world of espionage, its appalling morality and its betrayal of essentially decent people in pursuit of dubious goals. Even the best of his other novels only offers variations on this theme. Beautifully convoluted yet precise, the plot has the elegance and precision of a grandmaster's chess game.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic espionage thriller, 16 Nov 2011
By 
Lance Mitchell (Hampshire, UK, Northern Hemisphere, Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
Some people may regard this book as a modern classic. It is certainly the book which brought John le Carre to the fore.

Before I continue, I'd like to give you a warning. Please skip the Introduction by William Blake, as it will completely wreck the pleasure that you should get from the story as it reveals all, including the ending. You can go back to read the Introduction.

I well remember the first time that I read this book. I was about fifteen and I was an officer cadet at a Naval school where we could assemble in the mess hall every Saturday evening to watch a big screen feature film. I saw The Spy who came in from the Cold with Richard Burton was on the "Coming Soon" list. I borrowed the book from the school library and read it before I watched the film. I enjoyed both immensely, despite the relatively small differences in the story lines.

Revisiting the book a few decades on has been equally enjoyable experience. As you would expect, my life since those days has given me a different viewpoint, particularly as I served on the IGB (Inner German Border) during my Army days, and spent a lot of time with members of families who had spent years of forced separation from their close relatives. It was so sad.

This book is about the duplicitous games that spies play and how these affect the lives of others. There are lots of descriptions of the plot amongst the hundreds of online reviews, so I am not going to repeat that for you. What I would like to say is that this is a fast-paced story of Cold War espionage which draws you in. Every word and action of every character has to be carefully considered by that person, as any slip could place them in serious danger. That makes the story exciting.

This is one of those books which you simply must place on your have-to-read-before-I-die bookshelf.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review by a le Carre ingenue!, 1 Sep 2009
By 
This review is from: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
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Whilst i respect those reviewers who have read the original book, and therefore can meaningfully talk about the adaptation's faithfulness, I can only review this audio adaptation as a piece of stand-alone radio drama, with no idea of how accurate the mood or characterisations are.

As a dark, bleak drama set in the period of the Cold War, it is infinitely more compelling than the utterly unreal seeming James Bond version of espionage.

Production values are great, there is brilliant use of sound effects and music to set scenes and indicate the passage of time and place.

Brian Cox as Alex Leamas, the world-weary, bruised and complex intelligence officer and Ruth Gemmell as Liz, the young British CP member and Leamas' girlfriend are both superb. Cox particularly holds the whole piece together.

Like another reviewer however, I'm a little surprised that the wonderful Simon Russell Beale, as Smiley, received star billing. Maybe Smiley has a more central role in the other le Carre radio adaptations, but in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold he occupies about 2 minutes of 3 hours air time. So I'm also a little surprised at reviews which single him out for praise! as you have to listen very very hard to identify he has appeared in a scene or 3! He's talked ABOUT all the time, but isn't really in the action of this one at all!!! The real star is Cox; without his weighty performance this could garner no real accolades.

I couldn't go the whole 5 stars as there are some pretty wincing attempts as German accents, with the accent playing the actors, rather than the actors playing the characters.

Afraid without Cox I'd have had to stop listening once the action shifted to Berlin, as the cod accents had me gritting my teeth and wincing!!!

Cox, Gemmell, a classy script, excellent music and the fine skills of the producer/director and recording engineers make this a tight and absorbing piece
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Spy Story of the Cold War, 2 Oct 2010
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
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Written at the height of the Cold War and set in London and that cockpit of east-west conflict, Berlin; this book captures the atmosphere of the time admirably. It is written in a very spare style with plenty of dialogue. The plot moves along at a cracking pace and all the time the reader can sense the unfolding game of mental chess that is taking place between the secret agents of east and west. Although the film of the book is good it does not quite do justice to the mental gymnastics and intrigue of the written work. There are no wild car chases or silly gadgets to be invoked but the underlying sense of menace and squalid death are ever present. May not appeal to younger readers brought up on 'shoot-em-up' computer games but this classic cannot fail to find an audience with anyone who remembers the Cold War of the 1960s and the ubiquitous threat of Soviet Communism. A gripping page turner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good spy drama, 3 Sep 2009
By 
Paul Lessingham - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
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I've always enjoyed the BBC's crime and thriller dramas, but this was my first introduction to le Carre. This is a new dramatisation, first broadcast early this year.

Not being previously familiar with the novel, I found this a little hard to get on with at first. The narrative is quite complex, and there isn't a lot of voiceover narration to help out. It doesn't help that some of the voices are quite similar, so following the switches between characters is tricky at first. Also, of course, this is a cold-war drama that begins around the time of the building of the Berlin Wall. The dramatisation seems to assume a reasonable level of familiarity with the political context of the time.

These reservations aside, the CD is well worth persevering with. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes interesting and engaging. The acting is generally good - though, as with many BBC dramas, some of the accents are somewhat less than convincing. Ruth Gemmell as Liz Gold is particularly good.

Overall, this is a good dramatisation that repays perseverance. I suspect that people who are already familiar with the story might find it easier to engage with on first listening.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic Le Carre, 14 Feb 2009
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A cleverly written spy thriller which manages to be exciting whilst still realistic. There's nothing glamorous about the life of the spy in a Le Carre novel. This book focuses on Alec Leamas, an ageing spy who has one last extremely dangerous mission to complete before he can retire - 'come in from the cold'. The plot is intricate and clever, full of bluff and counter-bluff, but always easy to follow and never overblown.

Le Carre writes in a clear, lean prose. His stories are driven by plot rather than character and I couldn't really empathise with the characters, though they are believable. I found the book gripping and enjoyable, and well written, but I didn't really love it. It's a highly competent but not, in my opinion, exceptional read. However, it would make good holiday reading.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calculated Cold War thriller, 24 Nov 2003
By 
Viddy (Ilford, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
John le Carre's 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold' is a precise, calculating thriller following the exploits of a British spy carrying out his final mission for Her Majesty's Secret Service. Written at the height of the Cold War, the book gives an accurate insight into espionage during the 1950s and 60s.
The story is always interesting and everything le Carre describes is for a purpose, some of which is not immediately apparent at the time but makes sense later. The writer paints the scenes he describes with clarity and distinction, and the characters are very believable. The plot itself is a carefully planned one and allows the reader to constantly come up with ideas about what may be happening before blowing them away when you think you have solved.
The fact that the book was written in the early 1960s means that some sections are quite politically incorrect. However at all times this gives an authentic edge to the story, as it accurately describes people of that day and age. The level of thought and detail le Carre has put into the book is impressive.
Overall, this is one of the best spy novels I have read. Although there is little in the way of Bond-style action, the psychological twists and turns in it makes for a more genuine, tense story. If you are looking for an alternative to contemporary Tom Clancy-style tech-spy-thrillers, le Carre's works are a must-read.
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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (BBC Audio)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (BBC Audio) by John le Carre (Audio CD - 6 Aug 2009)
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