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on 23 December 2003
I don't normally feel I have time to write reviews but for this I'm making an exception. Once I got over the fact that this was not a Smiley novel (this took about a decade) I was able to accept it for what it is. Which is a beautifully crafted book about manners, like a modern Jane Austen, with a backdrop of cold war tension. Here is an author who seems to see more than most and is able to articulate it economically. Despite a slightly world-weary tone, or perhaps because of it, it is a ripping good read.
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on 10 December 1998
'Spying is waiting'. So believable. Unlike the breakneck speed of events of popular espionage fiction, John Le Carre takes us into the REAL world of spying where you do your bit and wait for reactions. Things don't happen at the speed at which we wish them to.
His characters don't speak from high moral grounds, so typical to Tom Clancy's characters. Nor they are reluctant heroes of Robert Ludlum. They are real people, afraid, greedy, selfish, people who you can relate with, people who don't have the power to eliminate the evils of the world single-handedly. These are the people who know that the evil is here to stay, and in some sense they are also part of it. Elimination of evil will mean self-destruction. They just play the part in the manner they are told to and wait to get out of the evil-machine of espionage. 'Spying IS waiting'
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on 14 November 2015
This book caught me on the hop and had to reread the first two chapters. This book is not quite what I thought it would be and then it turns out to be a spy thriller. A wonderfully convoluted plot which certainly keeps your attention. In fact at times it seems almost humorous.It is a great shame it has taken me so long to get around to reading this considering how many years ago it was published. One of the joys of retirement...catching up on all those books you kept promising to read.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Although this was trotted out as part of BBC Radio's 2010 'Complete Smiley' season, this was actually recorded in 1994. This four-disc/five-hour version of Le Carre's 1989 book stars Tom Baker (better known from Dr Who) as Bartholomew Blair, reluctant spy. Barley Blair is a loudmouthed womanising drunk who has pretty much destroyed his family's publishing house through feckless behaviour. However, he is sent a manuscript from a person who is obviously privy to the the Russian nuclear programme. The manuscript is dynamite - it reveals that the Russian missiles don't work all that well. If this is true, then it means that America's Star Wars programme is unnecessary. Of course, if the manuscript is false, then the Americans could be making a fatal mistake.

The only way of finding out is to train Barley Blair as a spy, and send him into Russia to contact the author. The Americans prepare a 'shopping list' containing everything they don't know about the Russian programme, and want the questions answered. Naturally, Barley bungles it by falling in love with the beautiful Katya, the author's intermediary. But what is really going on? Is the author genuine and the information dynamite? Or is it a KGB plot to mislead the Americans into dropping Star Wars and revealing the shopping list? Or is something else going on? The drama unfolds, with the answer only becoming apparent in the last five minutes.

The recording quality is excellent, and although I found it hard to get over 'The Doctor' playing a spy, it's a very enjoyable and accurate presentation, excellently directed and well acted throughout.
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on 5 February 2016
I've read quite a lot of John Le Carré's books from his first to his most recent. I'm gradually picking up all the ones in between and to this point had enjoyed them all - four or five star reads without exception. The Russia House disappointed though. There still plenty of the quality writing you come to expect along with his wonderful dry sense of gentle humour. But, this book lacks the fluency of his other work. Telling the story from different perspectives just doesn't work. This is the first Le Carré book I've struggled to finish.
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on 15 August 2009
This really is very good. I have not previously read anything by Le Carre and had no preconceived ideas about his style or substance. What I found was that the book very quickly drew me in to its tale of cold war spying. `Spying is waiting' we are told and reminded constantly by our narrator, Harry (de)Palfrey, Legal Advisor to `the Service', and the book is beautifully paced with all of its action found in superbly crafted dialogue. This is not a book of macho actions, shootouts, car chases and fist fights but one of the development of relationships between people and the tensions created by the circumstances in which they find themselves. Nothing is spared in this process; there are no heroes but just solid (mainly) people doing their job under difficult circumstances. In the middle of it all lies a publisher for whom the unexpected environment and events in which he finds himself leads to a tender love affair in Moscow and ultimately a strength of purpose and ability for decisive action not foreseen by those who had prepared him, even if there is clear recognition that they may not be controlling him. If you are looking for an intelligent spy story this one is highly recommended.
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on 28 January 2016
Plucky British spy gets an attack of conscience and starts to do the decent thing while public school, Oxbridge, politically manipulative, intelligence boss hands everything over to the Americans who screw-up. I just love le Carre's writing, his characters and descriptive text but he has been recycling the same plot almost more times than Dawkins has re-written the Selfish Gene!
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on 9 December 2015
Having read the 'Tinker Tailor' trilogy (a few times) and a couple of other Le Carré novels, I decided to start from book one, and progress chronologically. I'm surprised that this is post 'Smiley's People', because although this book had me hooked for the first third, it became a little leaden-footed, and I felt that we have been here before, albeit in a different guise.
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this CD, it's just the kind of story that grabs me, spies, suspense and mystery.

The essence of the plot is, and I won't give too much away, in the opening scene, someone is given a `book' at a publishing show in Russia, to take back to London as a sample. The `book' actually turns out to be a collection of Russian military defence and weapon secrets, which, if authentic, could be world changing.

The rest of the story unfolds with London publisher Barley Blair (Tom Baker) trying to verify the authenticity of the `book' so the British Government can take action, action which would be disastrous if the `book' was a fake. The tale ends with a not unforeseen twist, but still very enjoyable.

As fantastic an actor as Tom Baker is, his voice is so recognisable, I found it detracted from the story a little. One of the great things about books is deciding in your own mind who looks like what, and so on, I couldn't picture Barley Blair as looking like anything other than Tom Baker as Dr. Who.
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on 29 January 2016
Dull, slow, rambling. In parts it was so disjointed I started skipping paragraphs. After 30% I hadn't identified a plot so gave up.

It was my first LeCarre book, I had expected much better, not sure if I will waste my time on another of his books.
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