Call for the Dead Hardcover – 7 Jun 2001
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'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense . . . excellent writing' (Observer )
'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising . . . makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard' (Sunday Telegraph)
'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense ... excellent writing.' (The Observer)
'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising ... makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard.' (The Sunday Telegraph)
'A subtle and acute story of counterespionage marked by restraint, indirection, and intelligence.' (The New York Times Book Review)
'Smiley is one of the most brilliantly realised characters in British fiction. Bespectacled, tubby, eternally middle-aged, and deceptively ordinary, he has a mind like a steel trap and is said to possess "the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin".' (Audible.com) --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the first of Le Carre's books and it contains the secret origin of George Smiley AND a rippingly good little espionage mystery. It introduces Mundt, too, who becomes rather more important in later novels. Le Carre set out to provide an antidote to Ian Fleming's James Bond, and Smiley truly is the thinking person's hero; a man who considers everything, fluffs sudden decisions, can be nakedly human when it comes to the woman he loves -- and chillingly calculating in achieving his other goals.
It's also a really taut thriller, not like modern gargantuan monsters of 900-odd pages. Back in 1960-something, Le Carre could cram an encyclopedia of insight into a single sentence. It's also fascinating to find that although written nearly half a century ago, 'Call For The Dead' is just as compelling as modern fiction can be. As a fan of 'period spy stories', the books of Alan Furst being high on that list, I'm delighted to discover that the originals are every bit as good.
Two hours of reading bliss.
A novel which has much to say about post-war Britain, about the frailty of human relationships in the Great Game of espionage, but its main interest is in the way it establishes the character of George Smiley.
A few inconsistencies with the later novels - in particular, Peter Guillam is presented as a near-contemporary of Smiley's, whereas he is later reinvented as a younger man.
On the whole, an excellent debut, setting the tone for the later novels.
The story introduces us to George Smiley, the devious, cunning and ruthless spy who presents an image of bumbling donnish eccentricity to the world. The story centres around the fall out from the suicide of a man who was suspected of being a spy, but cleared by Smiley only hours before his death. An incendiary suicide note raises questions about Smiley's own conduct, he must investigate not only to get to the real truth, but also to clear his own name. Things soon get deep and dark, as layers of obfuscation are peeled back to reveal a conspiracy that has its roots in Smiley's own past activities in pre-war Germany.
This is really a gripping listen. As with all Le Carre novels there is a rich, complex atmosphere of paranoia, coupled with a twisting, turning plot. The actors really give of their best to bring the characters to life, especially Beale, who evokes memories of Alec Guinness, but manages to put his own stamp on the role. Plaudits must also go to Kenneth Cranham as the practical and worldly Mendel, a Special Branch officer who gets drawn into Smiley's investigations.
The sound production is similarly well done, the whole thing really evokes the feeling of clammy foggy London, with the furtive, paranoid world of the protagonists.
There are two hour long episodes, each on a separate disc, in a normal size jewel case. There are limited liner notes with a short essay about Le Carre and a cast list.
This is a quality production, I look forward to hearing the others in the series.
Arguably closer to a murder mystery than a spy story, Le Carre's initial foray into novel writing is a clear marker for his punchy style to come.
In the context of other works this acts as a bit of background, especially as his 3rd book, the superior The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Penguin Modern Classics), often references "the Fennan Case". It also provides the first glimpse at Smiley and actually offers much more information on Smiley's heritage than is later provided in other works.
As a stand alone work though, the story is a little short and the plot is not overly developed but the signs of Le Carre are certainly there and the brevity is therefore unsurprising.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book, John le Carre always hits the mark. A very good read and a chance to get to know Smiley better.Published 3 days ago by Fairview
A brilliant first introduction to Smiley one of the great, flawed characters. Ingenious plot and wonderfully reminiscent of the recent past.Published 4 days ago by D. T. Staples
I can't add much to what's been said here but let's acknowledge, and perhaps lament the passing of, the etiquette of a politer world when gentlemen staffed the secret service and... Read morePublished 15 days ago by Mike Collins
Loved the story and was intrigued by the attention to detail - it made me see how u observant I am!Published 23 days ago by C. Burkinshaw
Not quite the page turner of his later stuff, but a good scene setter for George Smiley.
Worth a read, but a bit over-priced for the length.
Clever build up inter spaced with interesting characterisation.Published 1 month ago by Robert Crabtree
John le Carre is fast becoming my favourite author. George Smiley IS Alec Guinness who will forever be linked to the BBC's TV adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Private Pike