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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of best british crime classics of all time
There are two great British spy fiction novels I count as the best: Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love and Desmond Cory's Dead Man Falling. Each are classics in their own right, and one more I would add to the list is John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

It's my favourite espionage thriller from John le Carre and also a fine example of how to...
Published 7 months ago by Jan Heart

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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 10 July 2014
By 
J. Bowen "Jamie Bowen" (Hampstead London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Smiley's People is the third story in the John Le Carre George Smiley/Karla trilogy.

In this book George Smiley (the retired temporary head of MI6) is asked to investigate the death of General Vladimir (a former spy). Vladimir was a former Russian officer who spied for the British year ago, and lived to retire. The problem was that the General was trying to make contact with MI6, after he is contacted by a Russian emigree in France. The question is, why's he calling? Smiley tries to find out.

As the investigation continues, the death of a "stringer spy" (Otto Leipzig) sees Smiley's concerns confirmed, and he and Karla (the head of the Russian "service") do battle to see if Smiley can come out on top in the third stage of their personal duel.

It's not a bad book, but it feels... old. I can see it's well written, but I think it drags a little (and not just because it's set in a time that doesn't exist any more). The book was written in 1978/79, and in the intervening years I think people have got more used to pace in their books.
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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
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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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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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as advertised, 6 May 2002
This is the first John Le Carre book that I've read, and given The Spy Who Came In From The Cold's classic status, I came to it with high expectations. This was especially the case, as I'd previously enjoyed a number of articles by, and interviews with, David Cornwell/John Le Carre. However, whilst the book's central thesis - "a plague on both your houses" is both compelling and comprehensively drawn, I found the characterization to be somewhat bloodless. I was in no way expecting a "shaken, not stirred" take on Cold War espionage, but, for a book that is essentially character driven, the depictions felt antiseptic in the extreme. I'm sure that many people enjoy this style, perhaps reading it as beautifully understated, but I found it surprising, particuliarly as it seemed so completely at odds with the author's ability to convey the essence of the book's personalities, using just a few strokes of the pen. It was just that there was no follow through. Indeed it often felt as though the story was unfolding on a black and white gogglebox, whilst I watched through the wrong end of a telescope. So, whilst I would definitely recommend the book, I did find it a little dry, to the extent where I found myself having to push a little to complete it. Having said that, I will certainly re-read it, and will be interested to see how I find it second time around.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Master, 8 May 2005
John le Carre is known by many as the master of the spy novels. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was his first hit. It made people like Grahame Green and Daphne du Maurier sit up and say things like "Oh jolly good!" But it's more than jolly good. It's a right old helter skelter of deception and betrayal.
Alec Leamas is a British spy stationed in West Germany. Trying to smuggle an agent across the Wall, Leamas's mission goes wrong and his agent is shot. Leamas is brought back to London. From this point on the novel takes a pyschadelic path and the reader has immense trouble trying to keep it straight. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? What is a set-up and what is a random occurrence? At times you're sure Leamas is taken by surprise and at times he seems to expect the unexpected.
Before Leamas can come in from the cold, before he can retire from infiltrating the Communist Party of the German Democratic Republic, he must undertake one more job. A Special Interest project.
As Leamas seems to deteriorate, as he becomes overtaken by drink and depression and as he is betrayed by one side after the other, he begins to understand the price of a life in the Game. All that remains undoubted throughout his journey Eastward is the memory of his one great mistake. Liz.
Spy writing at its finest. We cannot trust anyone, even le Carre. Just as the Communist Party will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives, le Carre will stop at nothing to weave a good yarn. The very nature of communism itself is laid bare, with just enough pathos, humour and paranoia to keep it real and to keep it relevant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a damn good read, 12 July 2009
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If you are looking for a book to polish off a few evenings this is perfect, a genuine classic. The whole atmosphere belongs to the politer black and white world of of Graham Green, goodies and baddies - post war 50's/60's Britain - a world that doesn't exist any more - or maybe it does for some people. The Litvininko case makes you wonder. So much better than the hammy, thin radio 4 adaptation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An all time classic not just for spy novels, 22 Oct 2001
By A Customer
The minute you read the first chapters set on tbe cobbled streets of Berlin you will be hooked. The book is Le Carre's most infectious the characterisation is perfect mostly due to Leamas the main and one of the best protagonists in any novel. Put all doubts aside and Read it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Book with Full Marks, 22 Aug 2012
By 
Michael Desmond (Belleek, Irl, Europe.) - See all my reviews
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An intelligent book that does not take long read. Le Carre is a famous writer for a reason and this probably is one of his best works. Great feel for the old FDR, really chilling with many unpredictable twists not thrown in for the sake of it. Kind of blunt style of prose that suits the coldness and insecurities of the book but nonetheless a page turner to the end.

Highly recommended.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome story, well executed..., 6 July 2012
By 
Emmster "the book wurme" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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The Spy who came in from the Cold is very much a character driven novel, set in the 60's and telling the story of Alex Leamas, British spy. You'll not find the excessive violence or lengthy fight-scenes so often used to beef-up the shallower end of the genre. Neither will you be dazzled with gadgets or super-computers chewing up gigabytes of surveillance data - this is more like a game of chess that uses human lives as pieces.

Le Carré has a minimalistic prose style that perfectly reflects the cold, emotionless nature of the game he describes. What really came across to me was the terrible loneliness affecting those involved; never knowing who you could trust, what was coincidence and what was orchestrated or where loyalties truly lay. There is no basis for forming realistic relationships on any level and it made me wonder how, in reality, anyone could go about their spying business without quickly descending into a state of total paranoid breakdown.

One other review (I haven't read them all) notes the terrible moral ambiguity present - especially at the climax. In the course of the telling, this novel shreds concepts like good and evil, and finally mocks anyone mad enough to call themselves 'the winners'.

Excellent book - thoroughly recommended.
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