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Detective George Smiley
on 8 November 2017
This is the second of John Le Carre's Smiley novels, and like the first, Call for the Dead is interesting both in itself as a story, and for the picture of an emerging novelist.
In this, Le Carre seems to be exploring a different course for Smiley's and hence his own career. Here Smiley has left the Circus, and is encouraged by a magazine editor, and old acquaintance, to look into a cry for help from a reader. Things take a fatal turn and Smiley finds himself looking into a murder in the claustrophobic, political and arcane world of an English public school.
This is a straightforward detective novel, with no element of espionage in it, and Le Carre seems to be establishing Smiley as an English Poirot, ready to launch into a series of novels.
As with the previous book, Le Carre is experimenting with characters, in particular the magazine editor has elements of being a prototype for Connie Sachs.
Also of interest is the strong social and political tone of the work, a common thread throughout Le Carre's career. Both in the story itself, and in an afterword, this is an absolutely vicious attack on the English public school system, both for its cruelty to those within it, and for its corrosive impact on society. Like Orwell attacking the excesses of the Stalinist left, this has the feel of an insider biting the hand which beat him.